In an effort to improve water quality and create a new habitat for wildlife, a unique hydraulic engineering project has unfolded in the Markermeer: Marker Wadden. A new group of islands has been created, sculpted from sand, clay and silt from the Markermeer.
In addition to improving water quality, Marker Wadden will also serve as a sanctuary for birds, fish, plants and shellfish. People will also benefit from this nature reserve: the first and largest island is open to nature lovers and water sports enthusiasts.
Creating natural habitats
The lake’s story is complex. The Afsluitdijk and Houtribdijk caused an ecological shift by separating it from the sea and rivers. This led to the lake’s bed being smothered in silt, disrupting the natural habitat for plants and animals, such as banks, tidal mudflats, marshes and shallow zones.
This ecological challenge is not only affecting the Netherlands but resonates globally.
The Marker Wadden project addressed this challenge by removing and harnessing the silt so it can benefit people, nature and the economy. This knowledge gained by building with sand, clay and silt during this project can also be used for other purposes. For example, it can be used to reinforce dykes, manage erosion and create islands suitable for housing. The research carried out around the Marker Wadden project focused on three main areas:
- Solid foundations: how do you use watery silt or clay to create a solid substrate for an island?
- Flourishing ecosystem development: how will Marker Wadden amplify natural diversity and improve the supply and quality of food for birds and fish?
- From vision to reality: what steps are needed, and how do you navigate the decision-making process?
Marker Wadden Knowledge and Innovation programme
In the Marker Wadden Knowledge and Innovation Programme (KIMA), Rijkswaterstaat, Deltares, EcoShape and Natuurmomumenten examined how the ecosystem of the Marker Wadden is evolving. The aim of KIMA is to generate and present knowledge about building with silt, sand barriers, ecology and governance. What is driving KIMA?
- The urgent need to remove the ‘blanket of silt’ that is stifling the Markermeer’s ecological potential.
- The absence of natural habitats for plants and animals, such as banks, tidal mudflats, marshes and shallow zones.
- The ambition to stimulate further innovation in KIMA with the knowledge gained from the project.
- The aim to strengthen the position of the Netherlands as an ‘exporter of knowledge’ in the field of ecology, hydraulic engineering and water management with the knowledge and experience gained.
The final results of the programme were published in 2022.