Development of WaterVision Nature

WaterVision Nature (WWN) is a tool that calculates the effects of climate change and water management on terrestrial vegetation in nature areas. Policy-makers and area managers can now take better account of the consequences for nature of changes in water management and in the climate.

Vegetation in (terrestrial) nature areas makes specific demands on water management, particularly with regard to groundwater levels. Existing assessment systems however do not take the consequences of climate change into account. Climate change has consequences for both the soil environment where plants take root, and for the plants’ water and nutrient needs. These changes occur via complex feedbacks.

Because of this complexity, a great deal of current knowledge about the relation between water management and vegetation is empirically based: statistical correlations and field observations. This knowledge is highly valuable, but not sufficient for use in climate projections. Moreover, the knowledge is not yet advanced enough to base vegetation forecasts entirely on process descriptions. This is why a hybrid solution was chosen for WWN. The tool’s hybrid nature is evidenced, among others, in two options it offers: (1) the testing of existing nature objectives, and (2) the forecast of nature potentials.

twee ecologen op onderzoek in een vochtig schraalland. Dergelijke vegetaties zijn heel gevoelig voor veranderingen in de grondwaterstand. De WWN berekent echter ook effecten van klimaatverandering op grondwateronafhankelijke vegetaties, zoals droge duinen.

Two ecologists doing research in a mesotrophic meadow. Such vegetations are very sensitive to changes in the groundwater levels. But WWN also calculates the effects of climate change on groundwater-independent vegetations, such as dry dunes.

Collective knowledge brought together

WWN is based on KWR and WENR knowledge, developed in part by doctoral and post-doctoral students. This knowledge is incorporated with WWN’s computing software into a user-friendly shell, which generates outcomes in the form of multiple maps and tables that can be immediately visualised with the shell. A number of geographical maps are supplied as standard, including the soil map of the Netherlands. The software is set up to make the input of new knowledge easy.

Useful in answering many questions

WWN can be used to:

  1. test water management against existing vegetation objectives;
  2. assess whether vegetation objectives are achievable under other climate conditions;
  3. identify new sites suitable for nature development;
  4. optimise water management for the benefit of nature.