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Modelling and Future Scenarios

Catchment mountainsnow picModels are mathematical representations of reality. They allow simulate the behaviour of a catchment on a computer. In the Catchment Management group, we have developed and use models of river flow, sediment transport and the effects of land use on water quality. We use models for two reasons: to test our understanding, and to project possible future behaviour of the environment.

Models allow us to test our understanding of catchment behaviour. A model incorporates the processes we believe to be important in the catchment. When a model is able to adequately simulate catchment behaviour, our understanding of catchment behaviour is confirmed. If the model is unable to do an adequate job of simulating reality, we know we have to go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves what we may have missed.

The second use of models is projecting future behaviour. One of the few things we are certain about is that the Scottish environment will be subject to large and rapid changes in the future. We know that climate change is leading to warmer temperatures, less snow and changing rainfall patterns. The need for food security and to reduce our carbon footprint will also lead to big changes in Scotland. If we are confident that a model is an adequate representation of reality, we can use it to explore future scenarios of climate and land-use change. This kind of exploration can help to answer the sort of “what if” questions we will have to address for a sustainable rural Scotland.

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Updated: 23 Jan 2024, Content by: MC