The Markermeer is one of the largest freshwater lakes found on the European continent. Fish used to fill its waters, but life is not teeming here these days. It may be over 700 square kilometers in size, but cloudy masses discourage marine life from staying.
This lake helps to regulate the water supply for all of the Netherlands. The Dutch are hoping that the restoration of natural habitats will encourage better water quality.
The overall goal of this artificial archipelago of five islands will work to bring the fish back. This idea may be an ambitious engineering project, but it’s an effort that also continues the battle against the sea.
26% of the Netherlands is Below Sea Level
Sediment used to create a dike that separates the Markermeer from another body of water washed away. When it sunk in the water, it turned the biome into a cloudy mess. Habitats for mollusks, plants, fish, and birds were all adversely affected.
The freshwater lake was once part of the larger Zuiderzee, which was a massive engineering marvel at the time that closed off a significant amount of water. It kept the North Sea out and stopped flooding in a country where one-quarter of the land is below sea level.
It took 2.5 years to build the artificial islands. The Dutch saw plankton return in massive amounts, bringing over 30,000 swallows back to the region. Several other bird species have come back since the project’s inception, and scientists believe that the fish aren’t far behind.
The total cost of the project was almost $70 million, and virtually all of the funding came from individual donations.