European nature reserve "De Boschplaat" on the Wadden Island of Terschelling was given international recognition recently, as the International Dark Sky Association elevated its status to a 'silver tier' dark sky park.
That's a first for the Netherlands - Never before has the Dutch night sky gained international renown.
A dark sky
Nocturnal life struggles with man's need to retain our bearings at night. Artificial lighting disrupts the natural world, for many animals and plants have adapted themselves through millions of years of evolution to be able to survive. Did you know that owls have special feathers that don't rustle in the wind as they fly? These feathers help owls catch their prey undetected under the guise of the night, Forester Remi Hougee tells us.
Image mice now being able to see their predators flying right behind them - Owls would go extinct within the decade...
Bats, moths, and migratory birds are amongst the species most affected by light pollution; stray artificial light that blots out the stars, planets and the moon.
What this means
This status has implications for the protection and preservation of the night sky at Terschelling. For example street lights are under scrutiny: Do they provide the correct lighting? If not, they may be altered or replaced by lamps that illuminate only downward and prevent stray light.
Not only the natural world benefits from being able to see more stars at night. Astronomers and photographers alike rejoiced when Terschelling received this status.
With Terschelling being the most northern and dark location in the Netherlands, Dutch photographers stand a better chance at capturing the elusive Aurora Borealis. The northern lights don't commonly stretch as far south, but when they do, I'm thankful that we still have some patches of nighttime darkness left.
International Dark Sky Places serve as reminders that the wonders of the nighttime environment are just as much a part of our lifestyle and history as the natural beauties experienced during daylight.
- IDA (International Dark Sky Association)
With its nearly 50 square kilometres, "de Boschplaat" is home to thousands of breeding pairs of birds, annually. With a wide beach at the east coast of Terschelling, "de Boschplaat" is often home to large groups of birds, the occasional seal, a large salt marsh along the Wadden sea, and during summer the island turns brilliantly purple with sea lavender. Also, the largest natural forest of the Wadden Islands has its roots, right here on Terschelling.
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