How can we improve understanding of faecal indicator dynamics in karst systems under changing climatic, population, and land use stressors? - Research opportunities in SW China

Buckerfield, S. J., Waldron, S. , Quilliam, R. S., Naylor, L. A. , Li, S. and Oliver, D. M. (2019) How can we improve understanding of faecal indicator dynamics in karst systems under changing climatic, population, and land use stressors? - Research opportunities in SW China. Science of the Total Environment, 646, pp. 438-447. (doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.292) (PMID:30056232)

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Human exposure to water contaminated with faeces is a leading cause of worldwide ill-health. Contaminated water can be transmitted rapidly in karst terrain as a result of the connectivity of surface and groundwater systems, high transmissivity of aquifers over large areas, and well-developed underground conduit systems. Faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) are the most widely-used indicator of faecal contamination and microbial water quality; however, the conceptualisation of FIO risk and associated sources, pathways, and survival dynamics of FIOs in karst landscapes requires a degree of modification from traditional conceptual models of FIO fate and transfer in non-karst systems. While a number of reviews have provided detailed accounts of the state-of-the-science concerning FIO dynamics in catchments, specific reference to the uniqueness of karst and its influence on FIO fate and transfer is a common omission. In response, we use a mixed methods approach of critical review combined with a quantitative survey of 372 residents of a typical karst catchment in the southwest China karst region (SWCKR) to identify emerging research needs in an area where much of the population lives in poverty and is groundwater dependent. We found that the key research needs are to understand: 1) overland and subsurface FIO export pathways in karst hydrology under varying flow conditions; 2) urban and agricultural sources and loading in mixed land-use paddy farming catchments; 3) FIO survival in paddy farming systems and environmental matrices in karst terrain; 4) sediment-FIO interactions and legacy risk in karst terrain; and 5) key needs for improved hydrological modelling and risk assessment in karst landscapes. Improved knowledge of these research themes will enable the development of evidence-based faecal contamination mitigation strategies for managing land and water resources in the SWCKR, which is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts on water supply and quality of water resources.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council as part of the IAPETUS Doctoral Training Programme (NE/ L002590/1) and has received additional assistance from NERC and the Chinese Academy of Sciences through the China-UK critical zone project NE/N007425/1, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41571130072).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waldron, Professor Susan and Naylor, Dr Larissa
Authors: Buckerfield, S. J., Waldron, S., Quilliam, R. S., Naylor, L. A., Li, S., and Oliver, D. M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Science of the Total Environment
Publisher:Elsevier Science B.V
ISSN (Online):1879-1026
Published Online:21 July 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Science of the Total Environment 646:438-447
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
707091The transmissive critical zone: understanding the karst hydrology-biogeochemical interface for sustainable managementSusan WaldronNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/N007425/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES