Floodplains during non-flood periods are less well documented than when flooding occurs, but non-flood periods offer opportunities to investigate vegetation controls on water and nutrient cycling. In this study, we characterized water uptake and nutrient concentration patterns from 2005 to 2007 under an oak savanna located on the floodplain of the Cedar River in Muscatine County, Iowa. The water table ranged from 0.5 to 2.5 m below ground surface and fluctuated in response to stream stage, plant water demand and rainfall inputs. Applying the White method to diurnal water table fluctuations, daily ET from groundwater averaged more than 3.5 mm/day in June and July and approximately 2 mm/day in May and August. Total annual ET averaged 404 mm for a growing season from mid-May to mid-October. Savanna groundwater concentrations of nitrate-N, ammonium-N, and phosphate-P were very low (mean <0.18, <0.14, <0.08 mg/l, respectively), whereas DOC concentrations were high (7.1 mg/l). Low concentrations of N and P were in contrast to high nutrient concentrations in the nearby Cedar River, where N and P averaged 7.5 mg/ l and 0.13, respectively. In regions dominated by intensive agriculture, study results document valuable ecosystem services for native floodplain ecosystems in reducing watershed-scale nutrient losses and providing an oasis for biological complexity. Improved understanding of the environmental conditions of regionally significant habitats, including major controls on water table elevations and water quality, offers promise for better management aimed at preserving the ecology of these important habitats. Copyright ?? 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.