In the past, Europe had an estuarine coastline characterised by gradients and natural dynamics. Together with rivers in the hinterland, these coastal waters formed a natural system. For fish, the estuarine area was a vital link in migration routes between the sea and these rivers, while birds used the area to breed, forage and live. After dams, dikes and engineering structures were put up, disturbing the coastline. Open connections were blocked and the estuarine area disappeared. In the Netherlands, the construction of the Afsluitdijk created a barrier between the Wadden Sea and the IJsselmeer. As a result, the interconnected natural system disappeared. As a consequence, it is difficult or impossible for fish to migrate and birds have fewer suitable habitats than before. This applies to the Wadden Sea and the IJsselmeer, but also to the surrounding polder and belt canal systems and rivers in the hinterland, such as the IJssel and the Rhine.
The Fish migration & BirdLIFE project aims at the restoration of a natural river course – to encourage fish migration – by restoring the connectivity between the Wadden Sea and the IJsselmeer. The concrete conservation actions will consist of the natural landscaping of the fish migration river and the creation of breeding islands and high-tide resting areas for birds. These project actions will:
The targeted species are designated in the Habitats and Birds directives for the IJsselmeer and/or Wadden Sea Natura 2000 network sites; their conservation status is unfavourable. The European eel is not included in the annexes of the Habitats Directive, but has a status of “critically endangered” in the European Red List. The project will contribute to population growth of eight fish species and 26 bird species (11 breeding and 15 non-breeding species), of which two fish species are priority for conservation listed in annex II of the Habitats Directive and one (breeding) bird species is listed as a priority in the Birds Directive.
By creating estuarine conditions, the impact of rising sea levels and changing river discharge regimes due to climate change in the fish migration river will be minimised.
Habitat (bird breeding ground and resting areas):