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«Environmental History of the Rhine–Meuse Delta An ecological story on evolving human–environmental relations coping with climate change and ...»

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Environmental History of the Rhine–Meuse Delta

An ecological story on evolving human–environmental

relations coping with climate change and sea-level rise

Environmental History

of the Rhine–Meuse Delta

An ecological story on evolving

human–environmental relations coping

with climate change and sea-level rise

Piet H. Nienhuis

Department of Environmental Science, Institute of Wetland and

Water Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Piet H. Nienhuis

Department of Environmental Science Institute of Wetland and Water Research Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands Cover illustration: The river Lek at Elshout (Kinderdijk) ca. 1850, painting by Johannes Weissenbruch (1822–1880), Teylers Museum, Haarlem. It is generally believed that the cultural landscape of the Rhine–Meuse Delta had obtained its maximum biodiversity around 1850, before the complete regulation and canalization of the large rivers, and before the introduction of artificial fertilizer and barbed wire.

ISBN 978-1-4020-8211-5 e-ISBN 978-1-4020-8213-9 Library of Congress Control Number: 2008921359 © 2008 Springer Science + Business Media B.V.

No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.

Printed on acid-free paper springer.com Memory of Holland Thinking of Holland I see wide-flowing rivers slowly traversing infinite plains, inconceivably rarefied poplars like lofty plumes on the skyline in lanes;

and submerged in the vastness of unbounded spaces the farmhouses strewn over the land, tree clumps, villages, truncated towers, churches and elm trees all wondrously planned.

the sky hangs low and slowly the sun by mists of all colours is stifled and greyed and in all the regions the voice of the water with its endless disasters is feared and obeyed.

H. Marsman (1936) Translation Paul Vincent Contents Preface

1 Introduction

1.1 Developments in Environmental History; Motives to Write

–  –  –

2.4.2 Peat and Salt

2.4.3 Initial Outline of the Present River Landscape

2.5 Conclusions

3 The Delta in the Later Middle Ages (800–1500)

3.1 Introduction

3.2 The Black Death

3.3 Weather and Climate

3.4 Reclamation of Peat Bogs

3.4.1 Climate Change and the Exploitation of the Raised Bogs

3.4.2 Systematic Exploitation of the Raised Bogs and Land Subsidence

3.5 The Large Rivers

3.5.1 Early River Management

3.5.2 Where the Rhine Touches the Ice-Pushed Pleistocene Ridges

3.5.3 Differences Between East and West

3.6 Trade Routes in the Late Middle Ages

3.6.1 Trade Routes Water-Oriented

3.6.2 The IJssel Trade

3.6.3 Iron, Forests and Rivers

3.6.4 Urbanisation in the Late Middle Ages

3.7 Land Loss

3.7.1 Land Loss Owing to Human Occupation

3.7.2 The Zuiderzee

3.7.3 The South-Western Delta

3.8 Conclusions

–  –  –

5 River Management after 1800: Complete Regulation and Canalisation

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Intensified River Management

5.3 The Rhine Normalisation

5.3.1 Closure of the Upstream Mouth of the Oude Rijn............... 116 5.3.2 The Nederrijn and the Lek

5.3.3 The Waal

5.3.4 The Merwede

5.4 The Meuse Normalisation

5.4.1 The Grensmaas

5.4.2 The Gestuwde Maas

5.4.3 The Getijde Maas

5.4.4 The Zandmaas and Meuse Route projects

5.4.5 The Beerse Maas

5.5 The Great Age of Digging Canals

5.6 Introduction of Steam Power

5.7 Reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer

5.8 Water Defence Line

5.9 The Ijsselmeerpolders

5.10 ‘Dredge, Drain, Reclaim. The Art of a Nation’

5.11 Conclusions

Part II The Legacy of Human Intervention

6 Changes in the Relation Between Man and Nature

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Medieval Images of Plants and Animals and their Perception............ 144

6.3 The Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment.................. 146

6.4 Dutch Naturalists in the 16th and 17th Centuries

6.5 Dutch Naturalists in the 18th and 19th Centuries

6.5.1 The Expansion of Linnaean Taxonomy

6.5.2 Johannes Florentinus Martinet (1729–1795)

6.5.3 Walking Vicars

6.6 Nature Protection – Late 19th, Early 20th Century

6.7 The Development of the Aquatic Sciences and Water Management

6.8 Conclusions

7 Land Use: Agriculture and Use of Wood

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Agriculture from Prehistoric Times until 1900 in a Nutshell.............. 171

7.3 Cultivated Crops from the Past

x Contents

7.3.1 Hemp

7.3.2 Potato

7.3.3 Hops, Tobacco, Flax and Madder

7.3.4 Sugar Beet

7.4 Small Landscape Elements

7.4.1 Woodland Management

7.4.2 Willow-Coppice

7.4.3 Reed Marshes

7.4.4 Bulrush Marshes

7.4.5 Hedges

7.4.6 Orchards of Tall Growth

7.4.7 ‘Stinzen’ Groves

7.4.8 Poplar Groves and Plague Proves

7.4.9 Ridge-and-Furrow System

7.4.10 Duck Decoys

7.5 Agriculture in the 19th and 20th Centuries

7.5.1 The Farmers’ Life in the 19th Century

7.5.2 Land Consolidation in the 20th Century

7.5.3 Land Use in the Bommelerwaard in 1825 and 2000............ 193

7.6 Grassland: The Dilemma Ecology Versus Agriculture

7.6.1 Ecological Values of Grassland

7.6.2 Agricultural Misery of Grassland

7.7 Brickworks

7.8 Conclusions

8 River Fisheries Through the Ages

8.1 Introduction

8.2 Inland Fisheries in the Past

8.3 The Catches of the River Fishermen

8.3.1 Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio)

8.3.2 Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

8.3.3 Allis Shad (Alosa alosa) and Twaite Shad (A. fallax).......... 211 8.3.4 Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)

8.3.5 Coregonids

8.3.6 Sea Trout (Salmo trutta trutta)

8.3.7 Salmon (Salmo salar)

8.4 Fishermen and Fishing Gear

8.5 Inland Fisheries in the 20th Century

8.5.1 Changes from Saltwater to Freshwater

8.5.2 Future Perspectives of the Professional Inland Fisheries

8.6 Introduced Fish and Stocked Surface Waters

8.7 Conclusions

Contents xi

–  –  –

10 Human Intervention in the SW Delta

10.1 Introduction

10.2 Estuarine Gradients and Zoning Before 1950

10.2.1 Gradients and Zoning in the SW Delta

10.2.2 Gradients and Zoning of Benthic Algae in Perspective

10.3 The Delta Project

10.3.1 The Delta Project and its Consequences

10.3.2 The Northern Part of the SW Delta

10.3.3 Krammer-Volkerak

10.3.4 The ‘Crown’ on the Delta Project, the Oosterschelde

10.4 The Scheldt River and Estuary

10.4.1 Hydrography and Biogeochemistry

10.4.2 The Estuarine Food Web

10.4.3 Past and Future of an Estuary

10.5 Conclusions

–  –  –

11.3.2 Water and Soil Pollution

11.3.3 Human Occupation of the Dommel Basin: ‘s-Hertogenbosch

11.4 Conclusions

Part III History of Industrial Pollution and its Control

12 Changing Rhine Ecosystems: Pollution and Rehabilitation................ 329

12.1 Introduction

12.2 The Rhine, its Subdivisions

12.3 Changing Rhine Ecosystems

12.4 Severe Pollution and the Deterioration of Biodiversity.................. 340 12.4.1 From the Industrial Revolution to an Open Sewer........... 340 12.4.2 Deterioration of Biodiversity

12.5 Ecological Rehabilitation

12.6 Conclusions

13 Changing Meuse Ecosystems: Pollution and Rehabilitation............... 355

13.1 Introduction

13.2 The Meuse, its Subdivisions

13.3 Changing Meuse Ecosystems

13.3.1 First Canalisation (1800–1880)

13.3.2 Adaptation and Stagnation (1880–1918)

13.3.3 Modernisation (from 1918 to the Present Day)................ 362

13.4 Severe Pollution and the Deterioration of Biodiversity.................. 363 13.4.1 The Industrial Revolution and its Consequences.............. 363 13.4.2 Severely Polluted Sediments

13.4.3 Water Quality

13.4.4 Deterioration of Biodiversity

13.5 Ecological Rehabilitation

13.6 Conclusions

–  –  –

Part IV Ecology of Biota in a Man-Made Landscape:

Deterioration and Rehabilitation

15 River-Fish Fauna of the Delta

15.1 Introduction

15.2 Prehistorical and Historical Records

15.3 Longitudinal Zonation Concepts for Large Rivers

15.4 Developments After 1950 and Present-Day Fish Fauna

15.4.1 Fieldwork and Survey of Species

15.4.2 Ecological Fish Guilds

15.4.3 The Transversal Flood Plain Gradient of Regulated Rivers

15.4.4 Relation Between Current Velocities and Reproductive Behaviour

15.5 River Rehabilitation

15.5.1 Rehabilitating River Habitats to Enhance Biodiversity Recovery

15.5.2 Actual Rehabilitation Measures and Nature Development

15.6 Recruitment of the Meuse from its Tributaries

15.7 Bream and Biomanipulation

15.8 Conclusions

–  –  –

16.5.2 Wasting Disease in the Grevelingen Population?

16.5.3 Recent Ideas

16.6 The Economic Use of Eelgrass

16.6.1 Wadden Sea

16.6.2 SW Delta

16.7 Restoration of Lost Eelgrass Beds

16.8 Conclusions

17 Exotics and Invasions of Plants and Animals

17.1 Introduction

17.2 The History of Invasions

17.3 What Makes an Invasion Successful?

17.4 Invasions of Invertebrates

17.4.1 Migration and Range Extensions

17.4.2 The Ponto-Caspian Connection

17.5 Case Studies of Introduced Bivalve Species

17.5.1 Dreissena polymorpha

17.5.2 Corbicula fluminalis and C. fluminea

17.6 Invasions of Higher Plants

17.6.1 Migration and Range Extensions

17.6.2 Giants Among the Shore Weeds

17.6.3 Case Studies of Introduced Water Plants

17.7 Conclusions

–  –  –

19 Changes in Biodiversity: Birds and Mammals and their Use............. 509

19.1 Introduction

19.2 The Avifauna of the Delta

19.2.1 Prehistoric and Historic Trends

19.2.2 Waterfowl and Agriculture in the 20th Century............... 512 19.2.3 Avian Biodiversity

19.3 The Mammals of the Delta

19.3.1 Introduction

19.3.2 The Wild Boar and Deer

19.3.3 The Harbour Seal

19.3.4 The Otter

19.3.5 The Beaver

19.3.6 The Muskrat

19.3.7 The Coypus

19.4 Conclusions

Part V An Ecological Story on Evolving Human-Environmental Relations Coping with Climate Change and Sea-level Rise - A Synthesis

–  –  –

21 The Future of the Delta


21.2Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise

21.3The Inescapable Fate of the Delta

21.4‘Room for the River’

21.5Back to the Past: Dwelling Mounds

21.6‘Nature Development’

21.7The Fifth Dimension

21.8If You Cannot Beat the River, You’d Better Join It

21.8.1 Continuation of a Dutch Tradition

21.8.2 Restoration of Tidal Dynamics

21.9 Double Shrinkage: Decline of Human Population and Decrease of Dry Land

21.10 The International Dimension


Subject Index

Taxonomic Index

Geographic Index

Preface This book presents the environmental history of the Delta of the lowland rivers Rhine and Meuse, an ecological story on evolving human–environmental relations coping with climate change and sea-level rise. It offers a combination of in-depth ecology and environmental history, dealing with exploitation of land and water, the use of everything nature provided, the development of fisheries and agriculture, changes in biodiversity of higher plants, fish, birds, mammals and invasive exotics.

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