The Zwin is certainly the best known nature reserve on the Flemish and Dutch coast: a fascinating, wide-open natural area covering 213 hectares, located on the territory of the cities of Knokke-Heist (BE) and Sluis (NL).
The nature reserve is a large expanse of sand enclosed by a wide row of dunes and a dike, which is connected to the sea via a tidal channel. Through this channel – the last remnant of the passage that connected Bruges to the North Sea in the Middle Ages – seawater flows into the Zwin plain twice a day. This constant interplay between sea and land is what makes the Zwin such a unique landscape in Europe.
However, the saltwater does not always reach all parts: the tidal flats are immersed twice a day, but the salt marshes on higher ground are only covered during flood or spring tide. Both areas are home to an exceptionally rich flora and fauna. The Zwin is also a true paradise for diverse species of birds: breeding birds find peace, protection and food, whilst migratory birds who follow the coastline on their way to warmer climates use it as a stopover to rest and recuperate.
Sadly, the Zwin is threatened by a serious problem: silting up. If we do not intervene in time, the channel connecting the Zwin with the North Sea will continue to silt up and the valuable tidal flats and salt marsh will be lost forever.
Preventing this from happening will require major intervention. After many years of preparations and thanks to the concerted effort of the Flemish and Dutch partners, it has now been possible to launch a number of large construction projects which will soon thoroughly change the appearance of the Zwin.
Source: Zwin in Transformation
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