HABITAT modelling is a spatial analysis tool to determine environmental impact to support the development of management plans. The tool is especially designed for ecological assessment to analyse the availability and quality of habitats for individual or groups of species. However, it can also be used for other spatial analysis where grid operations are needed like flood risk maps or  damages to agriculture or urban areas in case of floods and droughts.

Using cause-effect relationships (knowledge rules) that describe:

  • thresholds of variables (cause);
  • availability and quality of suitable area (effect);
  • environmental impact (combined effect)



A knowledge rule for fish describing the habitat suitability based on a variable (cause/effect).

A combination of knowledge rules and resulting Habitat Suitability Indexes (HSI) leading to the overall habitat suitability (combined effect)




Habitat analyses are important for studying the ecological functioning of water- and land systems. Knowledge about species and interactions between species is vital in this process. In a world with increasing environmental pressures, it is important to quantify these impacts. Knowledge about the effectiveness of measures can be used to develop policy on spatial planning and water- and ecosystem management in order to realize ecological goals.


HABITAT studies

Examples of (inter)national HABITAT studies are:

  • Analysis on the effects of climate change in European freshwater systems
  • Determination of the effects of water level fluctuations on the habitat suitability of macrophytes, zebra mussels,birds and vegetation composition in the area of Lake IJssel, the Netherlands
  • Development of a water management strategy to reduce CO2 emission from large peat areas
  • Determination of the effects of cooling-water on the habitat suitability of corals in Az Zour, Kuwait
  • Examination of the consequences of cyclic rejuvenation of floodplains for the habitat suitability of species
  • Determination of the effects of natural and anthropogenic pressure on key-species and WFD habitats       in the Ems- Dollard estuary, the Netherlands
  • Development of a water management strategy to reduce flooding risks and stimulate nature development in the Sava river, Croatia


HABITAT approach

The approach used in HABITAT modelling is based on the Habitat evaluation procedures (HEP) modelling developed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1980; Duel et al, 1995). This approach has resulted in the development of the HABITAT model (Haasnoot, Verkade & Bruijn, 2009).



Duel, Specken, H.B.P., Denneman, W.D., Kwakernaak, C. (1995) “The Habitat evaluation procedure as a tool for ecological rehabilitation of wetlands in the Netherlands”, Wat. Sci. Tech. Vol. 31, No. 8, pp. 387-391

Haasnoot, M. J.S. Verkade, K.M. Bruijn. (2009) HABITAT a spatial analysis tool for environmental impact and damage assessment. Hydroinformatics Conference. Chili 12-16 January 2009

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1980). Habitat evaluation procedures (HEP. U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Division Ecological Services Manual 102. Washington, D.C. USA.