Organisms adapt to and change their environment; the famous beavers build dams, termites build huge mounds. The mutual relationships between human activities, ecosystems and environment may affect local and global climate, leading to possible feedbacks between their adaptation mechanisms and environmental change. Ecosystems and communities relying on groundwater or stream water are facing increasing pressure from land use and water extraction, thus soliciting novel adaptation strategies. In order to address some of the challenges posed by environmental change, we need new knowledge and models to predict how soils, biological communities, biogeochemical cycles, water resources and human agency act and respond to changing boundary conditions. We need the ability to assess cumulative impacts from multiple direct and indirect sources, for example, combined impacts of changing water levels, water quality and other environmental or human origin stressors on ecological and water resources systems, and their feedbacks to humans. Therefore, this session will focus on the linkages between the material environment, ecology and anthropogenic activity. Can we develop a systematic and biophysically defendable model that combines all these issues? Conventional approaches based on sectoral interventions are prone to fail in delivering appropriate solutions to solve environmental critical problems in a changing world. For example, most current hydrological models account for vegetation as a control on evapotranspiration but very few include dynamic vegetation and even fewer have any connection to ecosystem function. A step further would be to capture how humans change their environment, and how subsequent environmental changes alter societal functioning. This session aims to review the current state of the ‘art’, discuss case studies to collect ideas on how such integrated modeling may be developed, and explore ways towards better understanding of the interplay of ecology, human agency and environment.