RCN: Intermittent River Research Coordination Network (IRRCN): Integrating Intermittent River Ecology and Hydrology

Project: Research project

Project Details


Life is simply different in the absence of water, especially for life in rivers and streams. Yet half of the Earth's rivers dry or stop flowing each year. These streams or rivers are called 'intermittent.' Intermittent rivers are not well studied or understood by researchers studying river ecology or river hydrology. Initial research shows the hydrology and ecology of intermittent rivers are very different from rivers that always flow. The current scientific understanding and concepts of streams and rivers is incomplete as it is biased towards the half of the Earth's rivers that continuously flow. The Intermittent River Research Coordination Network (IR-RCN) will organize a series of expert workgroups that will synthesize the growing body of research on intermittent river hydrology and ecology. These workgroups will produce generalized frameworks that can explain how intermittent river hydrologic and ecologic systems work. This research is important because intermittent rivers are often overlooked or excluded from water management plans due to uncertainty about their hydrologic and ecological importance. Graduate students will receive interdisciplinary training in hydrology and ecology and network with intermittent river ecologists and hydrologists across the globe.

Funds will be provided by this award to form three workgroups on intermittent river hydrology, ecology, and ecohydrology. The hydrology workgroup will seek to generate new tools to characterize intermittent river flow regimes, develop a hierarchical scale-based framework for predicting spatial intermittence patterns, and compare statistical and processed-based models for prediction of intermittent river streamflow metrics. The ecology workgroup will synthesize large scale intermittent river biodiversity and ecosystem datasets to better understand the structure and function of intermittent river ecosystems. The ecohydrology workgroup will integrate products from the ecology and hydrology workgroups to identify hydrologic controls on intermittent river ecosystems and integrate these findings into our current river conceptual frameworks designed for rivers that always flow. The IR-RCN will improve the management of intermittent rivers by enhancing communication and networking among academic researchers and nonacademic stakeholders, including government agencies and NGOs. Datasets, methods, materials and projects produced by the IR-RCN will be made open access on the IR-RCN web portal and deposited in the Dryad Digital Repository for long-term availability, which will broadly impact the global scientific community.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date11/15/216/30/24


  • National Science Foundation: $499,955.00
  • National Science Foundation: $326,564.00


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