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The Netherlands

The decreasing altitude of western Netherlands

Most of western Netherlands is below sea-level; but this is not land claimed from the sea.

This was bogland, just above sea-level in historical times. Depending upon the era — upon sea-level at the time — this territory was partially habitable without serious hydro-engineering.

But the engineering that did occur as necessary and as part of claiming wetlands — drainage that made land useful — started the long, slow decrease in elevation to the levels that we see today.

The primary effect was simple: water is a large component of peat, so drainage removed much of their volume.

The next effect took — takes — longer, and is continuous. When peat is exposed to air, it begins to react with oxygen and decomposes.