The state of the art of aquatic and semi-aquatic ecological restoration projects in the Netherlands

P.H. Nienhuis, J.P. Bakker, A.P. Grootjans, R.D. Gulati, V.N. De Jonge

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    ecosystems are in full swing now, enhanced by the European Union policy to set aside agricultural land in the Netherlands in favour of the development of `nature'. The state of the art of aquatic and semi-aquatic ecological restoration projects in the Netherlands is given. Starting from the conceptual basis of restoration ecology, the successes and failures of hundreds of restoration projects are given. Numerous successful projects are mentioned. In general, ecological restoration endeavours are greatly benefiting from progressive experience in the course of the years. Failures mainly occur by insufficient application of physical, chemical or ecological principles. The spontaneous colonisation by plants and animals, following habitat reconstruction, is preferred. But sometimes the re-introduction of keystone species (e.g. eelgrass; salmon; beaver) is necessary in case the potential habitats are isolated or fragmented, or when a seed bank is lacking, thus not allowing viable populations to develop. Re-introduction of traditional management techniques (e.g. mowing without fertilisation; low intensity grazing) is important to rehabilitate the semi-natural and cultural landscapes, so characteristic for the Netherlands. For aquatic ecosystems proper (estuaries, rivers, streams, larger lakes) the rule of thumb is that re-establishment of the abiotic habitat conditions is a pre-requisite for the return of the target species. This implies rehabilitation of former hydrological end geomorphological conditions, and an increase in spatial heterogeneity. The `bottom-up' technique of lake restoration, viz. reduction in nutrient loadings, and removal of nutrient-rich organic sediment, is the preferred strategy. The `top-down' approach of curing eutrophicated ecosystems, that is drastic reduction of fish stock, mainly bream, and introduction of carnivorous fish, may be considered as complementary. For semi-aquatic ecosystems (river-fed and rain-fed peat moors, brook valleys, coastal dune slacks) it also counts that the abiotic constraints should be lifted, but here the species-oriented conservation strategy, the enhancement of the recovery of characteristic plant and animal species, is mainly followed. An important pre-requisite for the rehabilitation of the original natural or semi-natural
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)219-233
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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