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Waterlife gardens

When you think of the Netherlands, you think of water. Lots of animals have a strong relationship with water and need water in their habitat. Animals like waterfowl, amphibians, macroinvertebrates (invertebrates that live in the water) fish and more cannot live without a suitable body of water. These animals can be helped, even in your garden. By forming a nature-friendly bank, or by placing a nature-friendly pond, these animals can be given a place to live.

 

Currently, a lot of water in the Netherlands has a moderate to poor (ecological) quality. The main reasons for this are eutrophication (algal blooms caused by excess nutrients), high concentrations of persistent substances emissions in the past, establishment of water (canalisation and established water levels), fragmentation (weirs and pumping stations) and pesticides. Because of this, animals that are dependent on this water are struggling. Nature friendly banks are essential for water treatment and as a habitat for many plants and animals. Many animals can’t survive if all watersides are steep campshot . Think of the ducklings which are not able to leave the water, or tadpoles which do not have aquatic plants to hide from predators.

Create a nature friendly shoreline!

A natural shoreline is a complex system in which zones overlap or are even missing, making every shore unique. From the water vegetation gradually  changes over in plants that prefer increasingly drier soil. The marshy areas are particularly important for species-rich fen vegetation and invertebrates, the shallow waters with aquatic vegetation are ideal shelter and spawning grounds for fish. A healthy bank thus has a great diversity of nature where several plant and animal groups, each with a different need of moisture, follow each other in rapid succession.

By placing a gentle slope at the shoreline and add vegetation you can create a water’s edge which mimics a natural situation. It may not be entirely the same as a bank which originated naturally, because you probably want to keep the plants under control, but it will provide aquatic flora and fauna a place to live. This is also important for ponds. Steep pond edges provide much less of a suitable habitat and help a lower biodiversity than sloping sides.

A nature-friendly bank in Heemstede.

It is possible to extend the ''marsh zone'' by extending the ground that’s equal to the water’s edge horizontally. By extending this zone there will be more room for plants and animals that live at the water’s edge such as reed, yellow bulrush, water birds and amphibians. Such extended banks are called "marsh banks".

Het is niet altijd mogelijk om een natuurvriendelijke oever onder water door te laten lopen. De sloot moet open blijven voor boten bijvoorbeeld, of de grond zakt teveel in. Men kan er dan voor kiezen om een drasberm te plaatsen met een schoeiing welke net onder de watergrens staat. Dit zorgt ervoor dat een moeraszone kan ontstaan waar diersoorten welke deze nodig hebben toch kunnen leven. Kikkervisjes en libellenlarve kunnen hier bijvoorbeeld veilig leven zonder opgegeten te worden door vissen en watervogels kunnen hier nestelen of rusten en snel het water op en af zonder probleem. Het enige wat in dit systeem ontbreekt zijn de diepere waterplanten, maar dit is uiteraard nog steeds veel beter dan een steile oeverwand die 30 cm boven het water uitsteekt.

A marsh bank with a campshot wall. (Handreiking Natuurvriendelijke oevers, STOWA).

A marsh bank at the Kromme Rijn with a campshot below the waterline. The land can’t just sink but aquatic animals can easily get in and out of the water.

It is also possible to lower a small part of the campshot, allowing a nature-friendly bank to form behind the campshot. Water and animals can then still easily reach the bank, but the campshot is still clearly visible.

a nature-friendly bank in De Lyts

Next to campshot 

Where it is required to make a higher campshot nature can still be helped. There are materials available which can be placed along the campshot in the water which will allow vegetation to grow. Coconut Roles are frequently used at river banks, giving aquatic plants room to grow despite a higher campshot. These coconut rolls are available already planted.

Fauna Stairs help too. A simple staircase will allow ducklings, frogs and other animals to get in and out of the water. It seems so simple, but if there is no other possibility for animals to leave the water then it can make all the difference.

Photo 1: Coconut Rolls after some time. The river banks can settle well. Photo 2: Coot on a Coconut Roll. Photo: John Odé

A natural shoreline where different plant and animal groups follow each other in rapid succession. (Handreiking Natuurvriendelijke oevers, STOWA).

A marsh bank is an extended marsh zone. This provides additional habitat for marsh plants and animals. (Handreiking Natuurvriendelijke oevers, STOWA).