The overarching goal of the group headed by Matthias Zessner is to identify and quantify sources and pathways of contaminants emissions into surface water bodies. The spectrum of the studied substances is broad, including nutrients (N and P), heavy metals and organic trace pollutants. The focus on diffuse emissions makes the team, its work and its collaborations highly interdisciplinary, since several different competences need to converge to understand the complex processes taking place in river catchments.
A core activity of the team is the modelling of emissions at catchment scales, with MONERIS, MoRE and PhosFate being the central tools. Another relevant task is the application and development of methodologies to analyse the flow of materials and substance balances across scales and environmental or anthropogenic compartments within river basins. The third pillar of this team is the development of innovative techniques and strategies for an optimised water quality monitoring. Given the ambivalent and crucial role of phosphorus as contaminant and limited resource, a main research activity aims to understand the potentials of recycling from wastewater and sewage sludge and to quantify its environmental and economic implications.
The projects share the common goal of supporting policies and river basin management at local, regional, national and transnational level. Therefore, the ambition of the team is to progress scientific understanding and methodologies to address relevant practical research questions.