Natural conditions of the Netherlands
As early as around 1000, simple culverts were used for drainage purposes in low-lying areas of the Netherlands. Four centuries later, the clay plains in the west and north of the country were interwoven with an elaborate network of dikes and canals. In the 15th to 17th centuries there was a great boom in the construction of windmills. They were used to drain water from the shallow lands behind the dams, resulting in “polders” – agricultural areas that lie below sea level. Steam pumps were introduced in the 19th century, with the help of which the Haarlemmermeer polder was acquired in 1852. At its northeastern tip lies the large international airport Schiphol, 4 m below sea level.
Surface of the Netherlands
According to Shoe-Wiki.com, the flat northern coast of the Netherlands is bordered by the long arc of the West Frisian Islands, enclosing the shallow wadden sea of the Waddenzee. Their northern coast is made up of up to 70 meters high and several kilometers wide bands of sandbanks and benches, which border low-lying polder areas behind them. The Waddenzee is separated from the now freshwater Ijsselmeer by the 32 km long Afsluitdijk.
The dyke was the first step in the implementation of a generous plan conceived as early as 1891 to gain land from the then Zuiderzee sea bay and connect the province of Noord-Holland with the northwestern province of Friesland (Friesland). While the dam was being built, the shallow bay of the Wieringermeer in the southwest dried up. In its place, one of the four large polders was created, which now occupy an area of more than 2000 km 2. Also, a significant part of the most populous provinces (Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland) lies on the territory that was previously torn away by the sea.
In the province of Zeeland in the southwest, the rivers Rhine (Lek and Waal), Maas and Scheldt flow into the North Sea through a vast delta formed by their funnel-shaped mouths (estuaries) and islands. After the catastrophic flood of 1953, most of the estuaries and sea bays were closed, 32 km of new protective dykes and one entrance was blocked by a tidal barrage. Maritime traffic is served by a new waterway connecting Rotterdam to the sea, and the estuary of the river Scheldt, which provides access to the Belgian port of Antwerp.
Flat lowlands with clayey soils in the north give way inland and to the southeast to only slightly undulating terrain of sandy deposits. In the southernmost province of Limburg, a chalk plateau rises towards the Vaalserberg hill on the border with Belgium and Germany, which is the highest point in the Netherlands at 321 m.
The climate of the Netherlands
The climate is slightly oceanic. Summers are relatively cool, although some days can be very warm; winters are mostly mild and wet. Winds from the north can bring cold weather in spring, especially in the north and east of the country. Rain is frequent, but mostly light and evenly distributed throughout the year. Cloudiness and fog are typical for autumn.
Flora and fauna
Compared to prehistoric times, the extent of forests (now less than 9% of the area of the Netherlands) and swamps has greatly decreased. Most of the oak and birch stands in the east have been planted, as have the extensive coniferous and deciduous forests on the hills in the central Veluwe region. Much of the agricultural land is now occupied by commercial forest nurseries.
In the north, the Waddenzee Sea forms an interesting biogeographical complex with sandbars, wats and marshes. It is the most important wat (an area periodically flooded and exposed by the tide) in Western Europe, where many species of native and migratory birds, fish and crustaceans are found. The coastal dunes are covered by a specific grass growth of helm and other tough grasses, while the wats attract salt-loving rotlins such as the hornbill. The original fauna is represented by polder areas with occurring otters.
Thanks to its key position at the mouth of the Rhine, the Netherlands has become one of the most prosperous countries in Europe.
Dutch agriculture is the most intensive in the world in terms of yields and milk production. Predominantly family farms are relatively large and highly mechanized, but employ only slightly more than 2% of the workforce. About a quarter of the Netherlands is arable land and a third is pasture. Livestock production accounts for 70% of agricultural production. The main pig and cattle breeding areas are the coastal provinces of Friesland and Noord-Holland on opposite sides of the Ijsselmeer. The country is a traditional exporter of cheese, butter, poultry, eggs, bacon and other meat products. Food, including tobacco, represents more than 20% of the country’s export value.
A characteristic feature of the landscape, especially in the west, are fields where bulbous plants are grown. The Netherlands is the largest exporter of flower bulbs in the world. Also cut flowers – tulips, roses, chrysanthemums and lilies – are distributed worldwide.