1943 (Sheffield, UK) - 2014 (Paris, France)
Mike Bonell obtained a BSc (Hons) in Geography and Mathematics in 1966 and a PhD in shallow groundwater hydrology from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, in 1972 where his fieldwork was carried out on the Catchwater Drain, a catchment of low slope and clay soils.
In 1973, he joined the James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, Australia as a Lecturer in Physical Geography specialising in hydrology and climatology, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1980 and then Reader in Physical Geography in 1986. In 1987, he became the inaugural Director of the Institute for Tropical Rainforest Studies in Australia (now the Federal Australian Government Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management). During this time he carried some of the first studies of subsurface flow in tropical forest soils.
He was a recipient of the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole awarded by the French Ministère de l'Agriculture et de la Forêt in 1991 for his contribution to forest hydrology, his contributions to hydrologic sciences included over one hundred publications on hillslope and forest hydrology in the tropics, synoptic and rainfall climatology, and the hydrological impacts of climatic variability.
In 1992, Mike joined the UNESCO Division of Water Sciences, taking responsibility for the IHP component on the “impacts of climate variability and change on hydrology and water resources” and the Humid Tropics Programme. He later became the Division’s inaugural Chief of Section: Hydrological Processes and Climate (1998-2006). His tenure at IHP covered three six-year phases (IHP-IV, IHP-V, and IHP-VI) of the programme and included the global coordination of two major cross-cutting IHP initiatives i.e., the Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data (FRIEND) and the Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP). Combining rigorous understanding of hydrologic processes with an equally deep recognition of the value of sound water resources management policies, Mike distinguished himself during his tenure at UNESCO (1992-2006) as a promoter and builder of multi-disciplinary scientific cooperation networks interfacing science, water policy, and water law.
In November 2007, Mike Bonell joined the University of Dundee in Scotland as a Professor of Catchment Science at the Centre for Water Law, Water Policy and Science (under the auspices of UNESCO). He also served, since 2008, as an Honorary Professor at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University (UK) where he continued to conduct collaborative research in tropical forest hydrology. He also held several visiting posts in various universities and research centres in Europe and Australia prior to joining UNESCO as well as after his retirement.
A recipient of the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole (September 1991), awarded by the French Ministère de l'Agriculture et de la Forêt for his contribution to forest hydrology, his contributions to hydrologic sciences included over one hundred publications on hillslope and forest hydrology in the tropics, synoptic and rainfall climatology, and the hydrological impacts of climatic variability. Until shortly before his passing, Mike was working on a research project analyzing rainfall in the high altitudes in the Western Ghats in India, as well as advising the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on freshwater biodiversity assessments.
Main Source: UNESCO
While at James Cook University Mike Bonell and his team established the presence of saturated overland flow in undisturbed rainforest catchments and used innovative isotope studies to clarify relations of surface flow with deep drainage processes. The team also undertook detailed soil physical investigations in the major rainforest soil landscapes elsewhere in the wet tropics to understand how the results from Babinda might be relevant to land management decision making on a wider scale. Mike personally developed a keen research interest in the relationship between the runoff generation and synoptic and meso-scale climatology, a key factor in assessing how and where tropical environments might be expected to behave to the conventional wisdom developed from studies in humid temperate environments.
Mike also established collaborative partnerships with scientists from CSIRO Division of Soils and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries to investigate runoff and erosion generation processes in both the semi-arid rangelands west of Townsville and the cane lands of the wet tropics.
The results of this work influenced soil conservation and land management practices in North Queensland and beyond. The process understanding developed by Mike and the team underpinned the development of watershed management controls for forest harvesting in North Queensland. These were recognised as international best practice in the investigation of the 1987 global assessment of sustainability of forest management practices in the tropics by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). They were subsequently used as an initial basis for developing reduced impact logging (RIL) practices in Malaysia and elsewhere.
Obituary by David Cassells, Don Gilmore, Steve Turton, Peter Valentine and David Hopley
- Bonell, M., Hufschmidt, M. and J. S. Gladwell, J.S. 1993. Hydrology and water management in the humid tropics: Hydrological research issues and strategies for water management. Cambridge University Press.
- Bonell, M., and Bruijnzeel, L.A.. 2004. Forests, Water and People in the Humid Tropics: Past, Present and Future Hydrological Research for Integrated Land and Water Management. International Hydrology Series. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bonell, M, 1993, PROGRESS IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF RUNOFF GENERATION DYNAMICS IN FORESTS, Conference: INTERNATIONAL SYMP ON FOREST HYDROLOGY : WATER ISSUES IN FORESTS TODAY Location: CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA Date: NOV 22-26, 1993, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY, 150(2-4): 217-275.
MCDONNELL, JJ; BONELL, M; STEWART, MK; et al., 1990, DEUTERIUM VARIATIONS IN STORM RAINFALL - IMPLICATIONS FOR STREAM HYDROGRAPH SEPARATION, WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, 26(3): 455-458.
Bonell, M., 1998, Selected challenges in runoff generation research in forests from the hillslope to headwater drainage basin scale, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION, 34(4): 765-785.
Blöschl, Guenter; Ardoin-Bardin, Sandra; Bonell, Mike; et al., 2007, At what scales do climate variability and land cover change impact on flooding and low flows?, HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES 21(9): 1241-1247.
BONELL, M. and GILMOUR, DA, 1978, DEVELOPMENT OF OVERLAND FLOW IN A TROPICAL RAINFOREST CATCHMENT, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY, 39(3-4): 365-382
ELSENBEER, H; LORIERI, D; and BONELL, M., 1995, MIXING MODEL APPROACHES TO ESTIMATE STORM FLOW SOURCES IN AN OVERLAND FLOW-DOMINATED TROPICAL RAIN-FOREST CATCHMENT, WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, 31(9): 2267-2278.
BONELL, M; GILMOUR, DA; and SINCLAIR, DF, 1981, SOIL HYDRAULIC-PROPERTIES AND THEIR EFFECT ON SURFACE AND SUBSURFACE WATER TRANSFER IN A TROPICAL RAINFOREST CATCHMENT, HYDROLOGICAL SCIENCES BULLETIN, 26(1): 1-18
ELSENBEER, H; WEST, A; and BONELL, M, 1994, HYDROLOGIC PATHWAYS AND STORMFLOW HYDROCHEMISTRY AT SOUTH CREEK, NORTHEAST QUEENSLAND, JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY, 162(1-2): 1-21.
Barnes, CJ and Bonell, M., 1996, Application of unit hydrograph techniques to solute transport in catchments, HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES, 10(6): 793-802.