Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 26–43, 2007
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-11-26-2007

Special issue: A view from the watershed revisited

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 26–43, 2007
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-11-26-2007

  17 Jan 2007

17 Jan 2007

Development of catchment research, with particular attention to Plynlimon and its forerunner, the East African catchments

J. R. Blackie and M. Robinson J. R. Blackie and M. Robinson

Abstract. Dr J.S.G. McCulloch was deeply involved in the establishment of research catchments in East Africa and subsequently in the UK to investigate the hydrological consequences of changes in land use. Comparison of these studies provides an insight into how influential his inputs and direction have been in the progressive development of the philosophy, the instrumentation and the analytical techniques now employed in catchment research. There were great contrasts in the environments: tropical highland (high radiation, intense rainfall) vs. temperate maritime (low radiation and frontal storms), contrasting soils and vegetation types, as well as the differing social and economic pressures in developing and developed nations. Nevertheless, the underlying scientific philosophy was common to both, although techniques had to be modified according to local conditions. As specialised instrumentation and analytical techniques were developed for the UK catchments many were also integrated into the East African studies. Many lessons were learned in the course of these studies and from the experiences of other studies around the world. Overall, a rigorous scientific approach was developed with widespread applicability. Beyond the basics of catchment selection and the quantification of the main components of the catchment water balance, this involved initiating parallel process studies to provide information on specific aspects of catchment behaviour. This information could then form the basis for models capable of extrapolation from the observed time series to other periods/hydrological events and, ultimately, the capability of predicting the consequences of changes in catchment land management to other areas in a range of climates.