Towards a water-wise world Annual report 2014

Field research with KWR’s PROBE model is completed  

Predicting the impact of climate change on nature and agriculture

20 January 2014Research

Between 2009 and 2014, the KWR-developed PROBE computer model has been used to determine the effects of climate change on the development of natural vegetation for the Baakse Beek river (Gelderland) and the Tungelroyse river (Limburg). The objective is to achieve a sustainable and climate-proof management of these rivulets’ basins. Small adjustments in the groundwater levels are already producing enormous benefits for nature.

 Presentation at the Gelderland Provincial Government Building of the final practical research with KWR’s PROBE model (photo: Jerry van Dijk)

Presentation at the Gelderland Provincial Government Building of the final practical research with KWR’s PROBE model (photo: Jerry van Dijk)

The research continually examines the relation between nature and agriculture, says Jerry van Dijk, an ecologist at Utrecht University, and one of the knowledge partners in the work being done on a commission from the provinces of Gelderland and Brabant, the Rijn and IJssel and the Peel and Maasvallei waterboards, as well as the Knowledge for Climate subsidy programme. “We have used PROBE to see whether plots of land that farmers might want to sell for economic reasons could be appropriate for nature development. The low groundwater levels under agricultural land frequently restrains the growth of certain vegetation types. What’s interesting is that you can use PROBE in reverse. You can apply the model to determine the measures needed to create a specific type of vegetation target. You thereby provide nature managers and policy-makers with a useful tool.”

Raising groundwater levels

PROBE has been developed by Flip Witte and his KWR colleagues. Witte is a Principal Scientist at KWR and Extraordinary Professor at VU University Amsterdam. According to its developers, PROBE is a unique ecological model which permits nature managers to calculate the consequences of climate change. “The incorporation of climate change into the model is new,” says Van Dijk. “A small rise in the groundwater level to compensate the negative impact of climate change offers nature many perspectives. PROBE makes this kind of phenomenon easy to see. And this can also be very useful for agriculture, given that dry periods are becoming more and more frequent.”

PROBE allows nature managers to calculate the consequences of climate change


Van Dijk describes PROBE as user-friendly and fast. “You have to have reasonably detailed knowledge of the groundwater and soil type in the research area. But this information is usually readily available. By pressing a couple of buttons you can access current maps which you can get to work on.” PROBE’s processing speed is a result of a smart programming technique which makes it possible to process a climate scenario for an area of millions of grid cells in a couple of minutes. The Ecological Stress tool in the Watershare® suite contributes to speed-up the calculations in PROBE.

European BINGO project

In 2015 the European Commission approves the BINGO – Bringing Innovation to ongoing water management – research project of KWR and partners. Improved predictions of the effects of climate change are similarly central to this project, which will also be making use of PROBE.

Flip Witte

Flip Witte

© 2018 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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