CEE Seminar: A Platform for Studying Sustainable Water & Soil Management in a Mediterranean Watershed under Land Use & Climate Change

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium (MDEA)
Nikolaos P. Nikolaidis, Ph.D.

School of Environmental Engineering
Technical University of Crete, Chania, Greece

Abstract: The Koiliaris River watershed is a European Union Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) located in Crete, Greece, and representing severely degraded Mediterranean soils due to a heavy agricultural impact, such as grazing, over many centuries. The area is under imminent threat of desertification (soil carbon loss) due to climate change that is predicted for the region over the next century. The main type of soil degradation in the basin is water erosion, which is due to the clearing of forests and natural vegetation for cropping and livestock grazing. Devegetation and inappropriate cultivation practices induce soil organic matter losses making soils susceptible to erosion and desertification with global consequences for food security, climate change, biodiversity, water quality and the agricultural economy. The total area is 130 km2 and the total length of the river is 36 km. Intensive hydrologic and geochemical monitoring of surface and groundwater has been conducted since 2004, while the site has collected historical data since the 1960s. In addition, high-frequency hydrologic and water quality monitoring stations have been deployed to obtain data for the characterization of the hydrologic and biogeochemical processes with varying process response-times. There are three meteorological stations within the watershed and several outside. Experimental plots have been established to assess the impact of land management on soil functions and ecosystem services. Key research areas investigated are sustainable water and soil resources management, hydrologic modelling of complex terrains (karstic systems), high frequency environmental monitoring, soil degradation and formation, and stream and ground water chemistry. The presentation will provide an overview of the research conducted at Koiliaris CZO during the past 10 years with emphasis on understanding the hydrologic and geochemical processes operating in karstic terrains, the development and application of modeling tools for sustainable water and soil management, the assessment of the impacts of climate change and the framework for sustainable land management.

Bio: Nikolaos Nikolaidis is a professor at the School of Environmental Engineering and has served as deputy rector for financial planning and development at the Technical University of Crete from 2013-2017. Prior to joining TUC, he was a professor and director of the environmental engineering program at the University of Connecticut. His areas of expertise include watershed scale studies and modeling, heavy metal site assessment and remediation, and pollution prevention and sustainable development. He is using a holistic approach in solving environmental problems by conducting field studies, laboratory experimentation and mathematical modeling. Nikolaidis is participating and has participated in many European- and Greek-funded watershed studies. He has extensive experience in watershed monitoring and modeling in Greece, Europe and the U.S., and he has developed watershed models such as the ETD model, the NTT model and the HM-1D and 3D models, the reach scale tempQsim model for temporary rivers, the karstic model for predicting the flow and water quality and the integrated soil critical zone model. Nikolaidis is the director of the Hydrogeochemical Engineering and Remediations of Soils Laboratory (HersLab). HersLab has strategically participated in the development of proposals that focus on developing the underlying science and management tools for successful integrated water and soil resources management.