Get an overview about the project outputs and related knowledge

E1) Floodplain vegetation patterns

Start: 01/2015
End: 12/2019
Status: Active

Contact details

Valesca Harezlak

University of Twente

Download here the summary poster and the PhD thesis related to this project.

Snapshot of a Dutch floodplain that is managed with grazing and a typical field work to identify the corresponding vegetation patterns. (Source: Left: Rijkswaterstaat and Right: Bureau Beeldtaal Filmmakers. RiverCare video).

Project output

A combined approach to understand the vegetation characteristics influencing growth.


Unlike the floodplain vegetation of natural flowing rivers, the floodplain vegetation of modified rivers is not equally exposed to the river fierce erosion and/or sedimentation. Without any maintenance such as floodplain excavation and grazing with animals; the growth of herbaceous and grassland vegetation may create resistance for the river to flow. A specific combination of plant species at a given location may differently evolve when floods or droughts occurred. Therefore, it is useful to know how fast vegetation evolves over time and which vegetation characteristics influence their growth for wet and dry conditions.

Key goals: Fundamental understanding Innovative monitoring

Overview of the innovative components.

Innovative components

We combined fieldwork, modeling and satellite imagery to understand how vegetation evolves at a plant level and floodplains scale (see figure). On a plant scale, we collected in the field as input for a standard vegetation model the plant characteristics and changing conditions within a three-year period. For example, we looked at the soil composition and water availability whenever maintenance (excavation or grazing) and flooding or droughts occurred. We further upscaled the vegetation model to a floodplain area to determine its evolution over time. To get insights over the changes in the grass and herbaceous vegetation, we compared modeling results with satellite imagery that was openly available for a larger period of time.

For whom and where?

Water management and nature organizations in the Netherlands and abroad that are interested to tailor the floodplain maintenance according to the vegetation characteristics.

Data-collection methods: Field survey measurements Physical and laboratory experiments Process-based modeling

Temporal scale: Seasonal measurements

Application and development

We applied a combined approach to understand the vegetation dynamics over three Dutch floodplains (Duursche Waarden, Millingerwaard, and Erlecomse waard in the map below). Insights at plant level are particularly useful for the maintenance of modified rivers like the Netherlands. Therefore, the fieldwork focused on 30 small plots (1.0 to 1.5 m2) to analyze the plant composition and characteristics. Moreover, the image analysis covered the floodplain areas over the Waal and Ijssel where the plots where located. Preliminary findings revealed aspects that would have been not evident from a simple vegetation classification:

  • Field data showed that there are differences in terms of soil composition and between the chosen field locations. The correlations between the soil composition and plants characteristics indicated that dry plots evolve slower than the wetter plots. However, these correlations should yet be verified with reported trends in the literature for the study area.
  • Satellite images were useful to classify the vegetation and estimate their stage in the growing cycle.

Status for day-to-day practice

Each method gave insights into the relationship between wet and dry conditions and the evolution of vegetation, although the plant characteristics data and satellite imagery are not directly comparable. The analysis at plant level is particularly useful for nature organizations whereas the analysis from satellite imagery helps water organizations to coordinate regular maintenance at floodplain scale.

Key locations where our study was carried out.

Key locations: IJssel River (NL) Rhine River (NL) Waal River (NL)

Spatial scale: River section

Next steps

This section will be available as soon as possible.

Last updated: 10/02/2020

Explore the contact details to get to know more about the researchers, the supervisory team and the organizations that contribute to this project.

Contributing researchers

Valesca Harezlak

University of Twente

Supervisory team

dr. ir. Denie Augustijn

University of Twente

dr. Gertjan Geerling

Radboud University Nijmegen

prof. dr. Rob Leuven

Radboud University Nijmegen

Prof. dr. S.J.M.H. Hulscher

Contributing partners

As soon as available, explore the storyline to get to know more about the main methods or prototype tools that were developed within this project.

Explore the output details for available publications to get a glance of the innovative components and implications to practice as well as the links to supporting datasets.

Research outputs are currently under review. Meanwhile, the following are the main conference proceedings for additional details about this project:

Take a look to the dissemination efforts and application experiences which are available in the news items and blogs.


Rivercare floodplain


View video

All videos

Anything to ask or share?

About us

We would like to learn from your experiences and questions to take our knowledge further into practice in the Netherlands and abroad. Your feedback will help us to find out about your interests and how useful the information provided was to you.