The Federation Of Chinese Scholars In Australia


LI Ling

Position Professor
Professional / Institution Affiliation and address
School of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland, St Lucia 4072, Australia
Telephone 07 33653911
Mobile 0466207084

II. CAREER SUMMARY (Education and employment history, List major past positions and current positions):

  2010- “1000 talents” Professor (Type B, visiting), Hohai University, China.

  2009-: Deputy Director of the UQ Confucius Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia

  2005-: Professor and Chair in Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, The Queensland Uni, Australia

  1998-: PhD, The University of Western Australia, Australia

2007 Second Class Award of the State Natural Science Award of China
2007 Honorary Professor of Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, UK)
2005 First Class Award of the Ministry of Education Natural Science Award of China
2004 University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award
2004 Excellent Young Researcher Award of NSFC
1998 1998 STA Fellow (funded by the Japanese government)

2006 Member of Independent Peer Review Panel on the quality of the science in Queensland Government’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy
2005 Member of the Editorial Board of Advances in Water Resources
2006-2008 Associate Editor of Hydrogeology Journal (Springer)
2004 Member of Scientific Expert Panel of Moreton Region Water Resource Plan

Ling Li is currently Professor and Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of Queensland. He received his PhD in Environmental Engineering in 1998 at The University of Western Australia, Australia. His principal research interests lie in mathematical modelling of complex environmental systems. His current research focusses on the groundwater dynamics that underlie the behaviour of key coastal environments and ecosystems. His work addresses fundamental aspects of ocean-land interactions and has provided a key theoretical base for current scientific view of the dynamics of coastal shallow aquifers, and interactions between aquifers and coastal seas. Professor Li has made several breakthroughs in understanding complex nearshore groundwater flows. His theme is to improve our understanding of the important role of subterranean estuaries in controlling the exit condition of the subsurface transport pathway of landsourced chemicals to coastal waters via submarine groundwater discharge. Through collaboration with scientists from China, he uncovered a major groundwater system underneath the Badain Jaran desert in western Inner Mongolia. This work, published in Nature, established for the first time the link between the groundwater system and the unique landscape of the desert, which has the world’s highest stationary sand dunes and numerous lakes despite the wind and high potential evaporation. The discovery has important implications for regional ecology and water resources plan in north-western China. He has published over 100 refereed research articles mostly in leading discipline journals and delivered a number of keynote addresses in international conferences.

VI. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT PUBLICATIONS (publication number, impact and citations):
Best ten publications in the last ten years:
2012 Q. Zhang et al., 2012, Has the Three-Gorges Dam made the Poyang Lake wetlands wetter and drier? Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L20402, doi:10.1029/2012GL053431.
2012 S. Galindo-Torres et al., 2012, A numerical study on the permeability in a tensorial form for laminar flow in anisotropic porous media, Physical Review E, 86.046306, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.86.046306.
2011 GQ Jin et al., 2011, Hyporheic flow under periodic bed forms influenced by low-density gradients, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, Article Number: L22401, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL049694.
2010 J. Kong et al., 2010, A new model for coupling surface and subsurface water flows: with an application to a lagoon, Journal of Hydrology, 390(1-2): 116-120.
2007 C. Robinson et al., 2007, Effect of tidal forcing on a subterranean estuary. Advances in Water Resources, doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2006.07.006.
2006 C. Robinson et al., 2006, Driving mechanisms for groundwater flow and salt transport in a subterranean estuary, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L03402, doi:10.1029/2005GL025247.
2005 L. Li et al., 2005, Axisymmetric groundwater flow in porous media, Advances in Water Resources, 28, 1076-1082 (invited).
2004 J. S. Chen et al., 2004, Groundwater maintains dune landscape, Nature, 432, 459-460.
2003 L. Li et al., 2003, Confined-unconfined flow in a confined aquifer, Journal of Hydrology, 271, 150-155.

Porous media flow Water resources management
Environmental system modelling Sediment transport
Wetland eco-hydrology
Coastal processes

VIII. VISIONS (related to China and Australia from the area of expertise):
Much needed research on coastal wetlands: The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has identified important roles of coastal wetlands at the land-ocean interface ( These coastal ecosystems are of great significance for China and Australia environmentally, economically and socially. In particular, salt marshes, as important intertidal wetlands, are highly productive with a range of plant species. They serve as essential habitats for many intertidal fauna and influence greatly the productivity of coastal waters through nutrient exchange. The marsh ecosystem plays a critical role in maintaining coastal biodiversity. Salt marshes are an important part of the global biogeochemical cycle. They may act as carbon sinks, moderating the greenhouse gas emission and global warming. Moreover, salt marshes can function as filters of particles and contaminants in terrestrial water discharging to the sea, protecting coastal water quality. Under the threat of sea level rise, salt marshes provide protection for the coastal zone through adaptation.

China and Australia both have a large number of marshes listed by the Ramsar Convention as coastal wetlands of international importance. However, loss and degradation of these marshes has occurred due to competing land uses and ignorance of wetland values:

• Land use impacts within catchments, leading to increased fine sediment and nutrient loads.
• Drainage and/or filling for agricultural, urban and/or industrial development.
• Degradation by pollutants such as acid drainage, nutrients and metal contaminants.
• River regulation, barrages, infrastructure and floodplain structures.
• Intensive uses for aquaculture, dredging and shipping port infrastructure.

To properly assess and mitigate these impacts, it is essential to understand the flow and transport processes in the marsh soil. This project examines in detail these processes and will lead to (1) better understanding of the marsh’s response to anthropogenic stress; and (2) improvement of strategies and methods for marsh wetland preservation and restoration.

On a related issue in our coastal zone, water pollution in many areas is a serious environmental problem, threatening marine and estuarine ecosystems. The source of the excessive nutrients in coastal water can be from coastal wetlands. So far this source has not been well quantified and often ignored in studies of coastal water quality. The proposed project examines flow and transport processes underlying the chemical transfer from salt marshes to the ocean and will contribute to: (1) better understanding of the pathway of land-derived nutrients and contaminants entering coastal waters, leading to improvement of strategies for sustainable coastal resources management and development; (2) useful information for integrating the management of upland and lowland catchment areas; and (3) development of sound risk assessment methods and mitigation plans for coastal and estuarine pollution.

Salt marshes are also complex hydrological systems characterised by strong, dynamic interactions between surface water and groundwater. Our current lack of understanding of the complex marsh hydrology has seriously hindered the exploration of these wetlands’ ecological functions and effort to reverse a worldwide trend of declining salt marshes. Two long-standing hypotheses about plant zonation and nutrient outwelling have been in the centre of many previous studies. However, these studies lacked proper understanding and representation of the flow and transport processes in the marsh soil, and failed to establish sufficiently the link between the marsh’s ecological functions and hydrological conditions. I propose a research program to address this major research gap. The outcomes will advance the research on coastal wetlands and contribute to fundamental understanding of ocean-land interactions. In the long term, the work will assist in assessing, preserving and restoring coastal marsh wetlands, and determining the sources and fluxes of chemicals from these wetlands to coastal waters. The proposed study will showcase both countries’ capacity for cutting-edge research to achieve environmental innovation and management, and increase their capacity for tackling water environment issues of international significance.