Already in the 18th century, French philosopher Voltaire said: "God created the World, except for the Netherlands, that they have done themselves." Ever since the Dutch are working to meet that claim.
While other countries still have relatively untouched areas, in the Netherlands, every square meter has been designed. This includes natural reserves, which we not only conserve, but now also build.
Artist impression of the future nature reserve after completion.
Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation, is currently constructing a future nature reserve. These 'Marker Wadden' are designed to form a unique ecosystem that will boost biodiversity in the area, and with that, become a safe haven for birds.
Natuurmonumenten director Marc van den Tweel and project initiator Roel Posthoorn invited us over for a tour of what is arguably the strangest nature reserve on the Planet. We boarded a ship from the harbor and set to an area in the Markermeer, which currenly on Google maps shows only water.
After a 20 minute trip we found land nonetheless. A dessert like-area where huge large landscape printers are creating an artificial archipelago from the sediments that have accumulated in the Markerlake in recent decades.
Markerwadden during our tour. A vast, dessert like area. You need to wear a construction helmet by law, as this future nature reserve is an official construction area.
The idea for the project emerged out of the concern of the poor quality of nature in the Markermeer (700km2). The lake used to be part of the Dutch Zuiderzee, but is now cut off from the North Sea and rivers by dams, dikes and reclaimed land.
Simply put, the lake is little more than a big tank of mostly turbid water. The lake has barely any natural shores, and its waters are often extremely turbid as wind and waves churn up the accumulated sediments from the relatively shallow lake floor (2-4 m deep). Underwater and waterside plants, fish and water birds are all scarce: a situation that's far from ideal.
Dutch King Willem Alexander visits the Marker Wadden. Pleased with the new land added to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Markerwadden tomorrow as seen at Markerwadden today.
The construction of these islands should create sheltered zones for silt to settle and waterplants to grow. And along the wide shore zones, grass-like plants such as reed marshes can develop. These plants provide structure - both underwater and above the water - and offer food and shelter to small water animals, insects, fish and birds.
Completion of the first nature island is expected in 2020, and within the next decade nature lovers should be able to visit the area while maintaining the illusion of an 'untouched' natural landscape.
Aerial picture of the Marker Wadden islands under construction. The structure is not yet visible on Google maps.