Ecological Processes and Nutrient Transfers from Land to Sea: A 25-Year Perspective on Research and Management of the Seine River System

  • Josette Garnier
  • Gilles Billen


An interdisciplinary research has been carried on the Seine River system since 1989, with scientific questions in response to the major alterations in the Seine River related to human activities in the basin bringing the knowledge of stakeholders, policy makers, and scientists. A modeling tool (Riverstrahler) has been developed, able to simulate the ecological behavior of any large river system, and to explore scenarios for mitigating environmental alteration. The two major structuring concepts are: (1) the aquatic continuum from headwaters to the coastal zone where the ecological kinetic processes are basically the same, and (2) the water-agro-food systems linking environmental losses of agriculture and the structure of the regional food demand. The stakes of water management in the Seine watershed moved from the issue of urban point sources of pollution to that of diffuse agricultural contaminationWe have conducted environmental research on the Seine River system since 1989, constructing our major scientific questions in response to the major alterations in the Seine River related to human activities in the basin and to the questions under debate both by national water managers and public authorities and by the international scientific community. During this long period of time, we have gradually developed a modeling tool (Riverstrahler) able not only to simulate the ecological behavior of any large river system, but also to explore scenarios for mitigating environmental alteration. Our approach was based on two major structuring concepts: (1) the recognition of the existence of an aquatic continuum from headwaters to the coastal zone where the same kinetic processes are in action (unicity of the ecological processes), and (2) the definition of the water-agro-food systems allowing to relate environmental losses of agriculture in the watershed to the structure of the regional food demand. Here we show how the stakes of water management in the Seine watershed moved from the issue of urban point sources of pollution to that of diffuse agricultural contamination, and how our research fields evolved accordingly to finally embrace the socio-ecological functioning of the whole territory.


River system Ecological processes Long-term studies 



We are deeply grateful to all our Ph.D. students and postdocs who contributed so much to our scientific trajectory. We also extend our thanks to Professor G. de Marsily who welcomed both of us in the laboratory he was directing (UMR 7619-Sisyphe which became UMR 7619-Metis in 2014).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Pierre et Marie Curie, CNRS UMR 7619 MetisParisFrance

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