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Environment

Amsterdam Leads the Way on Wetland Restoration

The Dutch capital has long been a global model for flood management in a manmade landscape. Now it is seeking to break ground on how it preserves wetlands.
The pastoral landscape of The Netherlands marshes.
The pastoral landscape of The Netherlands marshes.De Agostini/Getty

Travel beyond Amsterdam’s northern outskirts and you enter a scene that looks like a 17th century Dutch painting. Cows chew their cud in lush pasture fringed with reed beds, in a region of pretty villages whose houses are often snapped up by wealthy urban commuters. By Dutch standards, this watery landscape has been left relatively undeveloped. Scratch the surface, however, and all is not well.

“We saw that biodiversity was going down and that peat was disappearing,” says Saline Verhoeven, who is currently leading a project to restore the local environment. Hemmed in by heavily developed land, the area still needs to sustain farmers. But current agricultural methods often drain significant water from the meadows, leaving the peat vulnerable to erosion and creating conditions that threaten marshland species.