Spatial organization is the pre-eminent challenge of ecohydrology as a geospatial science. Ecohydrological patterns emerge as a result of interactions of fine-scale processes and functions that are difficult to observe, quantify and predict. As a result, an integrated approach to the study of spatial patterns in ecohydrology requires a more focused engagement of sampling, sensing and computational tools that are presently available to the scientific community. Here, an incremental and iterative process is proposed consisting of field experiments sequenced with distributed ecohydrological modelling aimed at identifying emergent spatial patterns. In this commentary, three case studies are presented that illustrate how the integration of spatial technologies can provide new insights into the ecohydrological patterns of arid and semiarid ecosystems. The search for emergent ecohydrological behaviour arising from cross-scale interactions can also yield improved process understanding, predictive capabilities and relevance to societal needs. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.