Hydrosphere: Challenges of preserving and using WATER
(Eco-)Systems in the Anthropocene

Conference abstract

Addressing the hydrosphere, this EPICamp will look at water (eco-) systems impacted by both natural processes and human intervention. Water is equally a natural and social resource at the core of human existence which in turn has deeply shaped the waters that flow through the Earth. Taking an Anthropocence perspective, we invite a fully interdisciplinary approach – combining ecological, biological, earth, and social sciences – to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions for the socio-ecological systems of water.

This includes thinking about sustainable management of water resources, the preservation of biodiversity, the ecosystem functioning for healthy societies but also the interconnection between the environment and cultural identities, such as the conservation of traditional ways of life and the creation of resilient economies based on water(s).

Aquatic ecosystems are fragile and sentinel systems of reckless human-induced global change. In the future, they are likely to become even more fragile in terms of ecosystem functions and services. Human-induced environmental changes including elevated greenhouse gases, over-fertilization of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, habitat fragmentation, increasing extraction of resources from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the mass production of harmful substances worldwide all negatively affect ecosystem functioning, global natural cycles, and biodiversity. They also have long-term consequences on the human health and the viability of entire communities. Therefore, it will be a precondition to identify the complex interplay of local and global human actions which lead to local environmental impacts and adaptation. Considering far-reaching challenges related to the global changes we are facing, this EPICamp will integrate knowledge on adverse human impacts on the ecosystems formed by lakes, rivers, water sheds, marshes, and marine waters. It will stimulate discussion on adaptive and mitigation efforts against these challenges, identifying solutions which provide a balance between satisfying human needs and ecosystem demands. In order to balance the natural / engineering sciences with more human-centred approaches, this EPICamp in particular invites scholars from the emerging field of Environmental Humanities. The EnvHum address ecological and sustainability-related issues through historical, political and cultural lenses to aid in the development of appropriate forms of resilience and sustainability as well as their communication to society.

Potential subthemes include but are not limited to:

  • Hydrology and ecosystem adaptation
  • Water as a source of life and change
  • Inland waters – pollution, restoration and management
  • Community activism for water protection: sociological & natural science perspectives
  • History(ies) of Waterways and Water Bodies: from local cases to global challenges
  • Changes in human metabolism, connectivity and the effects on aquatic systems
  • Scaling up or Scaling Down: impacts of global environmental change on the hydrosphere
  • Balancing human needs and ecosystem demands: sustainable management of water resources
  • Global water cycles: arctic waters and climate change, marine waters and pollution
    EPICUR-Research EPICamp IV Hydrosphere Page 2 on 3
  • Hydrological extremes: challenges of intensifying droughts and floods
  • Masses of water, water of the masses: land use, forests and human settlement
  • Socio-ecohydrological systems in the tension between natural processes and human intervention
  • Multi-functionality of aquatic systems to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem functions
  • The fragility of water body’s ecosystem functions: surface and groundwater systems
  • Scarcity, migration, war: the economics and politics of / for water
  • Water science & engineering: technological innovation, ecological challenges and social impact

The EPICamp IV “Hydrosphere: Challenges of preserving and using WATER (Eco-)Systems in the Anthropocene” will take place online on March 23-24 2022 and is hosted by the University of Freiburg.

Registration is open until 19 March 2022.

Call for participation


As societies struggle to address and govern increasingly complex challenges which defy the bounds of modern states, governmental institutions, such as the European Union, turn to research communities to provide answers. According to the European Commission (EC) and its funding schemes, this requires a new – larger and more intensive – collaboration between researchers across Europe and in all research fields. With its support of European University Initiatives, the EC thus seeks to contribute to the establishment of research collaborations reflecting the diversity of Europe.
Expanding the concepts of traditional scientific conferences and workshops, EPICamps will be open gatherings engendering new partnerships and serving as seedbeds for research ideas beyond the scopes of single disciplines or fields. Thus, EPICamps will feature various formats, ranging from short presentations and panel discussions to academic matchmaking events and interactive ad-hoc discussion rounds, from virtual posters and project exhibits to search/offer blackboards. EPICamp will offer emerging scholars the opportunities to present their research, interests, and ideas as well as discover and meet with peers who complement and expand their work. To foster manifold exchanges, the EPICamps – in addition to thematic sessions – will also give room to researchers and non-university partners to
connect over questions of methodology, tools, ethical queries and data management, didactics, science communication and other aspects of academic pursuits.