Mapping Water-Table Depths Over Time to Assess Desiccation of Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems in the Netherlands


During the past decades, groundwater-dependent ecosystems in the Netherlands have been threatened by a decline in the water-table level. However, information on water-table depths and changes in water-table depths is insufficient and outdated. For policy evaluation, spatially explicit and detailed information on water-table depths is required, especially in areas with groundwater-dependent ecosystems including wetlands. Some 35,000 observations of seasonal fluctuation characteristics of water-table depths in nature conservation areas were made since 1980 during soil surveys. These observations were derived from characteristics of the soil profile or from measurements in boreholes. These observations were used in a space-time geostatistical analysis to map the seasonal fluctuation of water-table depths between 1980 and 2007. First, systematic differences between different estimation modes used through the years were corrected. Next, observations were correlated with area-wide available ancillary data using multiple linear regression. Simple kriging was used to interpolate the resulting space-time residuals. Maps of the predicted mean spring water-table depths and the accuracy of these predictions were used to identify areas where the water-table is deeper than favorable. Changes of water-table depths on the national scale over the past 25 years were assessed, and recommendations were made to increase the accuracy of future predictions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. Bakkenes M, Zwart D de, Alkemade RM (2002) MOVE Nationaal model voor de vegetatie versie 3.2; Achtergronden en analyse van modelvarianten. (MOVE National model for vegetation version 3.2; Backgrounds and analysis of model variants) RIVM rapport 408657006/2002. In Dutch

  2. Bierkens MFP, Knotters M, van Geer FC (1999) Calibration of transfer function-noise models to sparsely or irregularly observed time series. Water Resources Research 35:1741–1750

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bilonick RA (1988) Monthly hydrogen ion deposition maps for the northeastern U.S. from July 1982 to September 1984. Atmospheric Environment 22:1909–1924

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Braat L, Amstel A van, Gerritsen A, Gool C van, Gremmen N, Groen C, Rolf H, Runhaar J, Wiertz J (1989) Verdroging van natuur en landschap in Nederland: Beschrijving en analyse (Man-induced drought of nature and landscape in the Netherlands: description and analysis). Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, ’s-Gravenhage. In Dutch

  5. Fasbender D, Peeters L, Bogaert P, Dassargues A (2008) Bayesian data fusion applied to water-table spatial mapping. Water Resources Research 44:W12422

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Finke PA (2000) Updating the (1:50, 000) Dutch groundwater-table class map by statistical methods: an analysis of quality versus cost. Geoderma 97:329–350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Finke PA, Brus DJ, Bierkens MFP, Hoogland T, Knotters M, de Vries F (2004) Mapping groundwater dynamics using multiple sources of exhaustive high resolution data. Geoderma 123:23–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Goovaerts P (1997) Geostatistics for natural resources evaluation. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hoogland T, Runhaar J (2006) Neerschaling van de freatische grondwaterstand uit modelresultaten en de Gt-kaart. (Downscaling the phreatic groundwater depth using model results and the WTC-map), WOt-rapport 26, Wageningen. In Dutch

  10. Jost GT, Heuvelink GBM, Papritz A (2005) Analysing the space–time distribution of soil water storage of a forest ecosystem using spatio-temporal kriging. Geoderma 128:258–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Knotters M, Bierkens MFP (2001) Predicting water-table depths in space and time using a regionalised time series model. Geoderma 103:51–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Knotters M, van Walsum PEV (1997) Estimating fluctuation quantities from time series of water-table depths using models with a stochastic component. Journal of Hydrology 197:25–46

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kyriakidis PC, Journel AG (1999) Geostatistical space–time models: a review. Mathematical Geology 31:651–684

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Lameire S, Hermy M, Honnay O (2000) Two decades of change in the ground vegetation of a mixed deciduous forest in an agricultural landscape. Journal of Vegetation Science 11:695–704

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. MNP (2005) Optimalisatie EHS; Ruimte, Milieu en Watercondities voor Duurzaam Behoud van Biodiversiteit (Optimalisation EHS; Space-, environmental- and water conditions for sustainable biodiversity conservation), Rapport 408768003, MNP, Bilthoven. In Dutch

  16. Pebesma EJ (2004) Multivariable geostatistics in S: the Gstat package. Computers & Geosciences 30:683–691

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. R Development Core Team (2006) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL

  18. Ringrose S, Vanderpost C, Matheson W, Wolski P, Huntsman-Mapila P, Murray-Hudson M, Jellema A (2007) Indicators of desiccation-driven change in the distal Okavango Delta, Botswana. Journal of Arid Environments 68:88–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Runhaar J, van Gool CR, Groen CLG (1996) Impact of hydrological changes on nature conservation areas in the Netherlands. Biological Conservation 76:269–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Runhaar HJ, van Walsum PEV, Prins DAH (2002) Effects of climate and land use change on hydrological conditions and species composition in Dutch riverine grasslands (Calthion, Junco-Molinion). Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology 2:219–226

    Google Scholar 

  21. Runhaar J, Witte JPM, Verburg PH (1997) Groundwater level, moisture supply and vegetation in the Netherlands. Wetlands 17:528–538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Scott ML, Shafroth PB, Auble GT (1999) Responses of riparian cottonwoods to alluvial water-table declines. Environmental Management 23:347–358

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Smith SD, Devitt DA, Sala A, Cleverly JR, Bush DE (1998) Water relations of riparian plants from warm desert regions. Wetlands 18:687–696

    Google Scholar 

  24. Snepvangers JJJC, Heuvelink GBM, Huisman JA (2003) Soil water content interpolation using spatio-temporal kriging with external drift. Geoderma 112:253–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Ten Cate JAM, Holst AF van, Kleijer H, Stolp J (1995) Handleiding bodemgeografisch onderzoek; richtlijnen en voorschriften Deel B: Grondwater. (Soil survey manual: guidelines and protocols, part B: groundwater) Technisch document 19B, DLO-Staring Centrum, Wageningen. In Dutch

  26. van Delft SPJ, Holtland J, Runhaar JR, Mekkink P, Jansen PC (2003) Verdrogingskartering in natuurgebieden: Proefkartering Beekvliet. (Mapping desiccation in nature conservation areas: test area Beekvliet) Alterra-Rapport 566.2. In Dutch

  27. van Delft SPJ, Runhaar JR, Hoogland T, Jansen PC (2002) Verdrogingskartering in natuurgebieden: Proefkartering Strijper Aa (Mapping desiccation in nature conservation areas: test area Strijper Aa), Alterra-Rapport 566.1. In Dutch.

  28. Van der Pouw BJA, Finke PA (1999) Development and perspective of soil survey in the Netherlands. In: Bullock P, Jones R, Montanarella L (eds) Soil resources of Europe. European soil bureau research report 6. Office for Official Pblications of the European Communities, Luxembourg

    Google Scholar 

  29. Van Ek R, Witte JPM, Runhaar H, Klijn F (2000) Ecological effects of water management in the Netherlands: the model DEMNAT. Ecological Engineering 16:127–141

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Van Heesen HC (1970) Presentation of the seasonal fluctuation of the water-table on soil maps. Geoderma 4:257–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Williams LL, Hudak PF (2005) Hydrology and plant survival in excavated depressions near an earthen dam in north-central Texas. Environmental Geology 48:795–804

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality for funding this research as part of the Basic Research program for the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. We thank Arjen van Hinsberg, Guus Beugelink and Rien Pastoors for their involvement during the project, and Hans Visser, Dick Brus, and two anonymous reviewers who reviewed earlier versions of this manuscript.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tom Hoogland.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hoogland, T., Heuvelink, G.B.M. & Knotters, M. Mapping Water-Table Depths Over Time to Assess Desiccation of Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems in the Netherlands. Wetlands 30, 137–147 (2010).

Download citation


  • Accuracy
  • Nature conservation
  • Seasonal fluctuation characteristics
  • Space-time geostatistics
  • Temporal trend