The restoration of the Gelderse poort allowed for the rehabilitation of a key delta ecosystem while also allowing for increased flood defenses for nearby communities.
This project represents a restored floodplain of around 5000 ha located at the top of a delta. This intervention was a a collaboration between companies excavating clay from the riverbed and NGOs. As the clay was extracted the NGOs would remove fences from the area and implemented naturalistic grazing regimes. Other areas were acquired and added to these excavated plots in order to create greater interlinkages within the rewilded area. Dams were removed and 50 houses and 10 farms were relocated to allow for natural flow dynamics. Free-roaming horses and Galloway cattle were added to the landscape to facilitate the naturalistic grazing regimes. The project also helped reintroduce key species to the landscape such as beaver (Castor fiber), otter (Lutra lutra), and sturgeon (Acipenser sturio).
Overview of context and outcomes:
This region is highly prone to flooding and is located near the city of Nijmegen. The project started in the early 1990s and slowly grew over time, until having the management handed over to the government in 2009. The project continues to be run under a naturalistic rewilding strategy. The area has also become a popular recreation area with the site reportedly having over 1 million visitors a year.
Due to its location at the top of a delta, increasing the water storage capacity of the floodplain was a critical step in reducing the effects of the flooding downstream. The success of the restored floodplain and river system has reportedly allowed the local community to decrease its flood defense spending.
The intervention has reportedly helped increase habitat connectivity, quality, and diversity. Through letting the river naturally regenerate unique dune ecosystems have formed creating a 5 km long water gradient through the system. Alongside the beaver, otter and sturgeon that were introduced, it is reported that many other riparian species have made a comeback.
The rewilded site has reportedly caused a 10-fold increase in tourist traffic to the area. This has supported the local economy with tourist revenue flowing to local hotels and restaurants, while the site has simultaneously reduced local government spending on flood defenses. Community education programs have also been developed at the site with field seminars being conducted for more than 25,000 schoolchildren.
In 2009, after the completion of the land allocation and restoration process, the governance of the site was passed from ARK Nature and the river management authorities to the State Forest Service, who continues the manage the site today.
The inital pilot of the project was funded by WWF Netherlands and the ARK Nature foundation. Additional land procurement was funded in partnership by brick-making companies and WWF Netherlands. There was additional support and capacity provided by the Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works.
There are no clearly reported monitoring protocols currently identified.
The restoration facilitated the regeneration of a riverine forest, which when paired with the sand dunes, hampered the overall flow of the river. Rather than chop down the trees the managers decided to widen river channels to facilitate the return of flow. The land conversion did cause the loss of 30 agricultural jobs, but the restored landscape supports over 200 new jobs.