January 20, 2019

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Fake Islands Bring a Dutch Lake Back to Life

Fake Islands Bring a Dutch Lake Back to Life
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With no sounds other than those produced by nature, the archipelago can feel almost entirely isolated from the outside world. Sunlight reflects off its sandy beaches, where waves break onto shores, built to guard against flooding and to attract visitors, that until recently did not exist.

These shorelines, while beautiful and secluded, shield the main attraction: vast expanses of fertile land built, in part, with the very sediment that corrupted the Markermeer. On the island, bridges and walkways zigzag through a rapidly developing habitat. Signs advise visitors to avoid stepping into abundant wetlands, into which, guides say, people would quickly sink halfway.

“The plan is working so far,” said Liesbeth Bakker, a scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology who has been studying the Markermeer’s shifting biodiversity. “As a scientist, it is hard to say how this will develop over time. But in the first year, it appears this project has been a wild success in terms of bringing new types of food, fish and birds to the lake.”

The construction of the first island began in 2016. Jeroen van der Klooster, the project’s lead builder, used large amounts of sediment, sand and clay to construct the archipelago, which measures two kilometers by five kilometers, about 1.2 miles by 3 miles overall — a difficult process, he said, but one that has resulted in a “paradise of nature.”

“We have already seen dramatic, spectacular changes: thousands of new birds, clearer water, massive amounts of insects,” said Roel Posthoorn, an initiator of the project for the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation, during a recent tour of the archipelago.



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