New ecosystem Marker Wad is a paradise gained
God made the earth and man made Holland is a frequently used saying here in the Netherlands, as the country is well known for its reclaimed land. Now Dutch engineers and conservationists have created a new group of islands for nature - the Marker Wad.
Dams and dikes
The islands are located in the Markermeer in the southernmost part of the IJsselmeer lake which was created in 1932 when the Afsluitdijk was completed transforming the salt water Zuiderzee (South Sea) into a huge freshwater lake, the IJsselmeer. Later a second dike was built cutting the Markermeer off from the rest of the IJsselmeer. Consequently, the lake has become enclosed by dams and dikes with no natural banks or shallows.
With a depth of 4 metres, the water in the lake is so deep and so dark that there are hardly any plant life, fish or shellfish – which means there is no food for migrating birds. So four years ago, conservationists came up with an idea to create a birds’ paradise in the form of an archipelago made from sand, clay and silt mimicking the Wadden Islands (UNESCO heritage site since 2009). As a result, the clear waters in the shallows between the islands will be a rich feeding and breeding ground for fish and birds alike.
The archipelago is protected by a stone barrier sheltering the new ecosystem against prevailing winds and waves. Behind it 6 kilometres of dunes will rise, which are 3 to 5 metres high, creating a lagoon between several uninhabited islands with creeks and marshes. Day trippers will be able to go bird watching or walk the paths laid between the reeds and sailing boats can moor in a natural marina behind the dunes. The islands, just off the coast of Lelystad, were officially opened at the weekend.