Keep your head above the water

It is winter time in Belgium, and winter time means water!

High water in meadow

Belgium is kinda famous for its bad weather, with 800 mm average annual precipitation evenly spread over all months of the year.

Fence in flooded meadow

This 800 mm is in no way comparable with the liters of rainfall in a tropical rainforest, but it is enough to play an important role in the functioning of the local ecosystems.

Didge and flooded meadow

Especially in winter, these rains might cause serious stresses for the vegetation. With the cold weather and the short daylight periods during the winter months, the vegetation is inactive and hence unable to fix a problem that would be solved within a day in summer. This inactivity and hibernation indeed means only limited evapotranspiration or water loss through the leaves, and as a consequence restricted water uptake by roots from the soils.

Knotted willows in flooded field

Combined with the lower transpiration levels of the soil in the cold winter months, our landscape soon accumulates excessive water in (and on) the soils.

Frozen flooded corn field

For those out in the Belgian fields these days, the impact is obvious. Everywhere you look, meadows and forests are flooded, and the high water levels are persistent over the weeks. For meadow plants trying to survive the winter, these continuous floods will not provide the best environment, placing water stress close to the top of the list of plant stressors in the struggle to survive.

  High water in forest

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