© Mike Dodd


Flooding and groundwater dynamics are key factors defining soil processes and vegetation dynamics in riverine landscapes. Ecohydrology describes the relationships between water status, soil nutrient cycles and biotic responses.


Understanding the water regime in floodplain meadows requires monitoring water levels relative to the ground surface. Measurements can be carried out in tubewells, either manually or by automated loggers. Two types of hydrological model have been developed to relate these spot measurements to the surrounding area. Our Hydrotool is the most widely applicable as it works with monthly measurements for any site. Site specific models (such as our model for North Meadow NNR) require measurements of weekly precipitation, evapotranspiration, water levels in adjoining water courses and the site's microtopography. Site-specific models allow groundwater data to be generated on a weekly time-step under a range of scenarios.

Research aims

  1. To understand hydrological niche as a key driver for plant community assembly.
  2. To monitor ground water levels and durations of floods, inform site management for biodiversity conservation and restoration. 
  3. To model hydrological niches under different climate change scenarios.

Related projects

2014 – 2015 Hydrological niches on a Siberian floodplain. Funded by Interact, EU program funded by ERDF. David Gowing, Irina Tatarenko, Mike Dodd, Hilary Wallace, Owen Mountford, Emily Dresner.

2011 – 2013 FUSE: Floodplain Underground Sensors. Funded by NERC. David Gowing, Irina Tatarenko and Interdisciplinary team from Reading University, CEH, Imperial College London, Southampton University.


Meadows database

Our publications

García-Baquero Moneo, Gonzalo; Gowing, David J. G. and Wallace, Hilary (2022). The contribution of the spatial hydrological niche to species diversity in rare plant communities of English floodplain meadows. Plant Ecology, 223 pp. 599–612.

Garcia-Baquero, Gonzalo; Silvertown, Jonathan; Gowing, David J. and Valle, Cipriano J. (2016). Dissecting the hydrological niche: soil moisture, space and lifespan. Journal of Vegetation Science, 27(2) pp. 219

Michalovà, Dana; Gilbert, Joanne C.; Lawson, Clare S.; Gowing, David J. G. and Marrs, Rob H. (2011). The combined effect of waterlogging, extractable P and soil pH on α-diversity: a case study on mesotrophic grasslands in the UK. Plant Ecology, 212(5) pp. 879–888.

Araya, Yoseph N.; Gowing, David J. and Dise, Nancy (2010). A controlled water-table depth system to study the influence of fine-scale differences in water regime for plant growth. Aquatic Botany, 92(1) pp. 70–74

Bartelheimer, Maik; Gowing, David and Silvertown, Jonathan (2010). Explaining hydrological niches: the decisive role of below-ground competition in two closely related Senecio species. Journal of Ecology, 98(1) pp. 126–136.

Thompson, J. R.; Gavin, H.; Refsgaard, A.; Refstrup Sørenson, H. and Gowing, D. J. (2009). Modelling the hydrological impacts of climate change on UK lowland wet grassland. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 17(5) pp. 503–523.

Barber, K.R.; Leeds-Harrison, P.B.; Lawson, C.S. and Gowing, D.J.G. (2004). Soil aeration status in a lowland wet grassland. Hydrological Processes, 18(2) pp. 329–341.

Silvertown, Jonathan; Dodd, Mike; Gowing, David J. and Mountford, J. Owen (1999). Hydrologically defined niches reveal a basis for species richness in plant communities. nature, 400(6739) pp. 61–63.