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Artificial Islands to Host Wildlife in the Middle of the Netherlands


If the Dutch can engineer their country out of the expanse of the sea, they can also build islands to host wildlife. And so an artificial archipelago appeared in the lake of Markermeer, with islands to create breeding grounds for seabirds and to improve the water ecology of the lake.

Image credit: www.natuurmonumenten.nl

Markermeer lake is a shallow, 700km2 expanse of water that was created in the middle of the Netherlands as the Zuiderzee was cut off from the sea in 1932, when the Afsluitdijk was built to protect the inland against flooding.

The area was initially intended to be turned into a polder, but plans changed leaving Markermeer as a freshwater reservoir slowly filling up with sediment. The muddy waters could not provide enough light and oxygen to support a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

The archipelago project was set off in 2016. It intended to inhibit the ecological degradation of the lake and create a freshwater wetland refuge for birds, sea and vegetation. It was initiated by Natuurmonumenten, a Dutch environmental NGO, supported by the Dutch Government, Birdlife Netherlands, ANWB, VNO-NCW and thousands of individuals.

Boskalis Westminster, who undertook the construction, built corridors and islands (the Marker Wadden) using silt, a sedimentary formation halfway between clay and sand, which was dug out of the lake. The main island is intended to open to tourists, who can visit at safe distances from the birds. The rest of the islands are reserved for wildlife- birds like egrets and herons, and some 127 species of plants are reported to have settled on the area already.

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