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Page 27 5 Conclusions and Recommendations Hydrologic science is becoming increasingly recognized as an important element of global environmental research. Our Changing Planet (USGCRP, 1999) identifies several new key research priorities in hydrologic science that have not previously been well addressed. The following conclusions briefly assess the state of hydrologic science research within the USGCRP, and consider not only the aims of the USGCRP, but also the broader research community. These conclusions are supported by the discussions in chapters 2-4 of this report on science priorities, measurement and data strategies, and applications and knowledge-transfer needs. Recommendations corresponding to the conclusions are included. Conclusion 1: The development of scientific capability to detect and predict changes to the water cycle in response to natural and human-induced climate variability is a key priority research area. The development of such scientific foundations requires strategic investments in both measurement and basic research programs. Current USGCRP water cycle activities have a strong emphasis on climate and on the influence of oceanic and atmospheric processes on climate. Several priority areas for research in hydrologic sciences are currently not well developed in the USGCRP. Recommendation 1.1: The identification of the limits to predictability of hydrologic variables should be among the guiding scientific challenges of the USGCRP water cycle initiative. The dependence of these limits on space and time scales, the sources of variability, and the effects of interactions among terrestrial, atmospheric, and oceanic components on variability need to be addressed in the context of predictability. Recommendation 1.2: Agencies should establish mechanism to foster multi-disciplinary research on hydrologic system-ecosystem coupling. The emphasis on ecosystems will require that aqueous chemical cycles become prominent research priorities of the USGCRP water cycle initiative; at present, water quality is essentially absent from the USGCRP. Recommendation 1.3: Research on climate-hydrology linkages should be broadened to address issues of groundwater recharge, evaporation, basin-scale water balance, water and chemical pathways, and ecosystem responses. Fundamental research in these areas is also a priority in contexts other than climate, such as changing land use and its impacts on watershed-scale hydrologic processes.
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Page 28 Recommendation 1.4: Detailed implementation plans should be developed for the priority scientific challenges identified in this report. These plans should be based on a comprehensive view of current understanding, a futuristic view of technology, and a realistic view of cost-effective strategies. The agencies with substantial roles in hydrologic science research and measurements need to make certain that these efforts are led by stewards with effective authority and organizational support. Conclusion 2: The satellite measurement programs that constitute over 70 percent of the USGCRP water cycle budget in FY2000 are important but are not sufficiently focused to meet the specific challenges posed in Our Changing Planet or outlined in this report. Remote sensing is particularly well suited for global change research needs such as the characterization of precipitation, snow-pack properties, and surface soil. Realizing the full potential of remote sensing for hydrologic research and applications will, however, require a well-integrated satellite, ground network, and information management program. At present, the USGCRP gives a much lower priority to ground-based measurement networks and to long-term monitoring as critical elements in hydrologic research. Many hydrologic data archives are not readily accessible, and they are thus in danger of being lost. Recommendation 2.1: The USGCRP should give a high priority to developing effective measurement and data strategies for the terrestrial component of the water cycle. The design of new instrumentation and monitoring networks needs to incorporate effectiveness requirements for detecting change as well factors related to operational forecasting and process-level research. These networks need to integrate remote sensing and ground-based data, and they must be sustainable over the long term. Recommendation 2.2: A study of data and measurement strategies for hydrologic science should be initiated immediately and should be completed within about a year. Considerable attention needs to be given to recovering and archiving hydrologic data and making it available through effective data and information management systems. The study should include a process for broad participation from the research and applications community in hydrologic science and in related sciences. Recommendation 2.3: A parallel study should be initiated to assess the current state of and need for long-term experimental sites. Resources for expansion of these programs to include measurement and monitoring components required for hydrologic process studies and basin-scale water balance should be given high priority. Conclusion 3: Research in hydrologic science has much to contribute to the USGCRP emphasis on global change impacts, especially on water resource management issues (e.g., performance of water delivery systems, decision-making under drought conditions, or monitoring of the quality and quantity of regional groundwater and surface water systems). That emphasis also provides an important framework to help define future priorities in hydrologic science. Recommendation 3.1: Water resources management should be an integral, visible component of the global water cycle research initiative and should help guide the evolution of new initiatives within the USGCRP.
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Page 29 Recommendation 3.2: Formal efforts should be initiated to develop a better means of connecting hydrologic research and its applications in water resources management (i.e., two- way communication and knowledge transfer between researchers and the management community is needed). Recommendation 3.3: New initiatives should be launched in hydrologic education and literacy that lead research scientists, the public, and government and other agencies to become stake holders of a common interest in the water resources of a changing world.
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