Snapshot of a Dutch floodplain that is managed with grazing and a typical field work to identify the corresponding vegetation patterns. (Source: Rijkswaterstaat and Beeldtaal)
A combined approach to understand the evolution of vegetation dynamics over wet and dry conditions.
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.
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). 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: Waal River (NL)
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Last modified: 15/05/2019
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University of Twente
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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.
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