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 Building with Nature Guideline > Lakes and rivers > Lakes environment

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Lakes environment


Lakes play a crucial role in the water infrastructure of delta and coastal zone societies. As by 2050 half of the global human population is expected to live, work and recreate in these environments, it is important to optimise the management of lakes. The Building with Nature approach tries to find a balance between human use of lakes and maintaining the integrity of ecosystem functioning.


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System description

Lakes are generally regarded as socio-ecological systems. These are characterized by interactions between humans and the lake ecosystem. On the one hand, riparian societies adapt a lake to their needs and put the ecosystem under pressure, on the other hand these societies respond to the functioning of the lake ecosystem.

An analysis of the socio-ecological system of lakes should include insight into:

  • the abiotic physical processes
  • the biotic ecosystem processes
  • the interrelations and feedbacks between the biotic and abiotic processes
  • the governance structures and management systems (See tool for system analysis)


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Ecosystem services


Ecosystems provide all sorts of benefits - like goods or services - for mankind; these benefits are known as ecosystem services. Generally these services are divided into four categories (United Nations Millennium Ecosystem assessment):


  • Provision, such as the production of food and water
  • Regulation, such as soil retention
  • Cultural, such as recreational benefits and
  • Support, such as nutrient cycles. 

For further reading on ecosystem services see here (TEEB).


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Building with nature opportunities

Worldwide efforts in lake restoration

Ecological restoration of shallow deltaic lakes is a topic of considerable interest. In particular the restoration of ecological quality after eutrophication events has attracted much attention (see Verdonschot et al., 2012, for a review of restoration efforts in different types of wetlands). In comparison, relatively few restoration efforts have aimed at improving the structural diversity of lake ecosystems. Recently, restoration of (riparian) wetlands with clear water purification and biodiversity functions has received considerable attention.  In urban environments, lakes serve particularly valuable functions, including recreation, that have attracted a lot of attention in restoration efforts.


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EcoShape Building with Nature examples

EcoShape experience of Building with Nature efforts in lakes is largely restricted to the artificially constructed lakes  IJsselmeer and Markermeer in The Netherlands. In addition to water quality problems, these lakes suffer  from transitional problems (link), lack of structural heterogeneity, and lack of connectivity. Maintenance and upgrading of dikes and flood defences offer opportunities for win-win solutions using the Building with Nature approach.Below some approaches to lake restoration using Building with Nature will be illustrated, using IJsselmeer and Markermeer as examples. The opportunities will be discussed in four themes: water quality restoration, soft flood defences, creation of spatial ecological structure and restoration of sea-river connectivity.


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The lessons learned are specifically derived from the pilots and historic cases under the Markermeer-IJsselmeer case, and refer to the physical, ecological and governance processes. 


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