Research Paper: Watersheds Netherlands

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¶ … medium sized watershed in Holland. We will look at the current water status of the Biesbosch National Park watershed. This examination will include considerations of water quantity, quality and supply and demand. Also, there have been several other problems plaguing this watersheds including excess population, additional or changed agricultural practices, dams, new industries and forestry techniques. We will also look at the cities and/or industries which are placing stress upon the local water-shed of the Biebosch. While development has not destroyed the local environment, it has transformed it. In some ways, wildlife and people have benefited. In other ways, pollution is still a major problem, especially in terms of heavy metals. This mixed bag of results will be further examined below.

Overview of the Area

The Biesbosch is one of the largest national parks in Holland and is one of the last freshwater tidal areas in all of Europe. Ironically enough, the park is the result of man's intervention. The original landscape was wiped out by continual land reclamation over the centuries. Then, in 1953, a disastrous North Sea flood wiped out most of the existing dikes in the area and largely destroyed the existing human settlements around the park area as well. The Delta Project was then instituted by the Dutch government to create a more systematic and extensive system of dikes, damns and revetments. Unique in the history of the Netherlands, the Delta project created the present layout of the Biesbosch national park. This watershed is made up of a huge network of rivers as well as creeks complete with islands. The vegetation is mostly willow forests, march grasslands and reed fields. The Biesbosch represents an important wetland area for waterfowl and possesses a rich flora and fauna. ("Biesbosch.org").

There has unfortunately been a huge amount of environmental stress placed upon the Park. For instance, the Nieuwe Merwede canal, a manmade waterway, divides the Biesbosch National Park precisely down the middle between the provinces of Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant. The park section in Noord-Brabant is known as the Brabantse Biesbosch. The section in Zuid-Holland is sectioned into the Sliedrechtse Biesbosch and the Dordtse Biesbosch. The park covers an area of 9,000 hectares. This division has permanently changed the environment of the park, including some good and bad results, as will be discussed further on (ibid).

Despite the importance of the area as a watershed reserve, this did not protect it from modification by the Dutch government. A little consideration of history is therefore necessary. Before 1970, there was a connection between the sea. The difference between the sea and the park area war about he tidal about two meters. The changes eliminated the differential. Also, fresh water began to dominate the former marine ecosystem. All tidal differences virtually disappeared after 1970 when the Delta Works closed down the Haringvliet and with it the Biesbosch's direct connection to the sea. Only in the northern section of the Biesbosch did some of the original tidal difference remain (20-80 cm on average) while in the southern area, there was none. The diminishing of the tidal differential caused a drastic transformation in the Biesbosch. The area was transformed into a willow forest with only small remnants of the original delta streams. The Haringvlietdam also blocked the main route for the migration of fish. The influence of both of the rivers and the sea has almost completely vanished from the earth. Of course this had its effects on the flora and fauna. Certain plants and animals became extinct locally while others took their place. It was a drastic development that forced nature to adapt (ibid). Fortunately, in certain districts of the Biesbosch, nature is managed by as little human interference as possible due to pressure from the Dutch environmentalist movement. In the long-term, these areas will probably develop into marshy woodlands, which is the type of woodlands that used to cover the wet peat lands in the western part of the Netherlands in the past. The Biesbosch has always been an important region for the rest, forage and breeding of rare ird species. This watery wilderness is of such international importance to wild waterfowl and waders that a large area (the Brabantse Biesbosch) has been officially recognized as a wetland. This natural value has been confirmed internationally by other European regional agreements such as the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive (ibid). The area has known many traditional forms of land use agriculture, hunting and fishing activities. Remnants of those days are still there of the old reed lands are there, including the reed huts of willow workers and farm workers, duck decoys and the quays and also grass dikes with their characteristic pools. Boundary marker trees of former terrain boundaries are also still to be seen in the various places (ibid).

Effects of Pollution

Unfortunately, the Biesbosch is heavily polluted with heavy metals. The floodplains of the European rivers Rhine and Meuse bring these pollutants into the Biesbosch, such as cadmium, affecting life in the floodplain area. Concentrations of the heavy metals in earthworms and in millipedes were higher in All other measured concentrations of heavy metals in earthworms millipedes were similar to the ones found in reference areas. Since these metals in earthworms were increased as compared to animals in unpolluted soils, this fauna group seems to be most at risk. Given the natural engineering role of earthworms in ecosystems, the effects upon the ecological functioning of floodplain soils therefore cannot be excluded (Hobbelen, Koolhaas, and van Gestel 409) .

The contamination with heavy metals is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the disastrous human management of the resources of the Netherlands. We need to look at history of past water management attempts for more examples.

History of Water Management Attempts

The history of Dutch water management in the region started approximately in the 9th century. The period until the 13th century had been marked by a loss of big portions of land. At the same time, the reclamation of the peat lands had started in the west of the country. This caused a considerable drop in the water level consequently, making the lands more available for human exploitation. These lands below sea level were constantly threatened by floods from the sea ("Integrated river basin and watershed management.") .

Needless to say, the North Sea Flood Disaster in 1953 was a rude awakening for the country. The perfect north-westerly storm and spring tide then resulted in the inundation of large parts of the provinces of Zeeland and South Holland. More than 1800 people were killed and the flood was the cause of enormous damage to houses and property. The country was not safe. Measures to prevent a repetition of the 1953 disaster were put in the place in the form of the Delta Plan. Dykes in the areas of Zeeland South Holland had to be raised to a delta level (ibid).

The Netherlands built the Delta Works and thereby gained a reputation as a country which had won the war against the water. In 1993 and 1995, the Netherlands were faced again with floods due to climate change that resulted in more melting and rainwater from the areas upstream. Therefore, new projects were needed and a new approach to water management was needed as well. Rather than continuing to increase the height and size of dikes, the concept has been explored to make more space for water (ibid). This has lead to the development of watershed areas to be used as natural waterbreaks. Sustainable Development-Eco-Tourism

In the future, 15-20 years hence, it will still be important to have a healthy ecosystem. Therefore, it is advisable to continue to monitor the trends in the development of the Biesbosch, including the monitoring of the sediments before any new flood prevention development is approved. Water crises have occurred in the past and will continue into the future due to the lack of the local area control of water retention rates, resulting in too much or too little water at various times. The Biesbosch is part of a bigger, integrated program of water management in the river basin management requires integrated land use planning of upland areas, that taking into account the impact of the proposed land management system on the lower reaches of the catchment locally and balances that needs off against national needs. These considerations distinguish the management of catchment areas that are in the area watershed management from local land management. In this way, the spatial component of water can be appreciated and water management can be coordinated with land management systematically / Cross disciplinary and participatory approaches to both water and land management are needed and attention must be paid to the proper institutional setting within the bureaucracy so this approach can become the governmental norm. Thus, the field of watershed management will be able to coordinate with land management effectively, as well as to optimize the various land uses in the watershed and focus on the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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