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Netherlands - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Netherlands is among the most densely populated countries in the world. Agriculture occupies the majority of the total terrestrial area in the Netherlands, followed by forests and dwellings, respectively. The majority of the country’s terrestrial area is covered by highly productive agricultural lands, with pristine ecosystems being currently virtually absent in the Netherlands. Since the early 1900s, the average quality of all distinguished types of nature has declined; however, in forests and moors, the decline has decreased. The Netherlands also has a relatively large area of wetlands (this particularly refers to four larger inland waters). Nowadays, in the large Dutch rivers, alien species outnumber the native species however it is not yet clear to what extent alien species are invasive and replacing native species. The country has invested considerable effort in safeguarding and restoring existing nature as well as in creating “new” natural areas.

Although it has not been measured in detail, the state of biodiversity does not appear to be improving in the North Sea. For example, the stocks of cod and sole are below their biologically safe numbers. Among all vertebrates, plants and some major groups of invertebrates, 29% of the species are, to some extent, threatened with extinction at the national level. About 80% of national forests are protected through the National Ecological Network (NEN). About 50% of the NEN consists of forests but the natural character of Dutch forests is limited, because the greatest part (80%) of Dutch forests consists of standing forest, of which 82% is even-aged. Climate change is causing noticeable distribution shifts in the Netherlands. For instance, for a selection of species in the Netherlands, trends reveal that species with a preference for a cool environment are decreasing, while species that prefer warmth are increasing.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Factors considered to have contributed to the long-term decline (i.e. over the 20th century) of populations of animal species include large-scale hydraulic works, organic pollution and salinization, disappearance of eelgrass beds in the Wadden Sea, straightening of water courses, reclamation of heartlands and grasslands (as well as their subsequent acidification, eutrophication and desiccation), and the disappearance of flowery areas. Threats to aquatic wildlife include pressures from the European fisheries on stocks which have resulted in a marked decline in large fish catch; the collateral damage caused by fishing gear is also high. Moreover, fishing for most stocks of commercial fish species in the North Sea does not meet the sustainability criteria of the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), regarding spawning biomass and fish mortality. An estimated 75% of the catch is discarded and, in most cases, does not survive. The long-term decline of plants (including lichens, algae and macrofungi) is attributed to factors such as air pollution, nitrogen deposition, habitat destruction (including heartlands, grasslands, moors and dunes), the disappearance of eelgrass beds in the Wadden Sea, increased water temperatures, acidification and eutrophication of waters and decreased forest vitality.

More generally, changes in land use posed a main threat to biodiversity in the Netherlands during the 20th century.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Dutch actions for implementing the Convention are integrated into several national policy papers and programmes. The Netherlands developed the Strategic Action Plan for Biodiversity in 1995. Pursuant to this, relevant actions were formulated in “Nature for people, people for nature”, a policy document for nature, forest and landscape in the 21st century (2000) and in “Biodiversity works for nature, for people, forever”, the biodiversity policy programme of the Netherlands (2008-2011). Other related policies for addressing specific biodiversity targets have included the Fourth National Environment Policy Paper (2001), “Sources of our existence: conservation and the sustainable use of genetic diversity” (2002); International Policy Programme on Biodiversity (2002-2006), Policy Letter on Agrobiodiversity (2004); Policy Notes on Invasive Alien Species (2007), among others.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The policy for the National Ecological Network (NEN) aims to develop, by 2018, a sound national network of natural areas, including expanded ecological corridors. Several of these areas are designated under the European Union’s Bird Directive and Habitats Directive. The economic values of these areas, including the ecosystem services they provide, are being taken into account.

To enhance public awareness and concern regarding biodiversity, current biodiversity policy increasingly emphasizes the functional values of biodiversity, rather than expressing the more traditional concerns on the conservation statuses of individual species. Most Dutch citizens have a medium to high level of awareness of the importance of nature protection. Only a limited group (around 10%) rejects the need for nature protection; the group most aware of the need for nature protection decreased from 42% in 2001 to 30% in 2006.

The Netherlands has sophisticated means for collecting and processing biodiversity data, and was among the first countries to establish comprehensive online national species catalogues. Further, in 2010, the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis was established to combine the efforts of several Dutch taxonomic institutes. The Netherlands has also published a relatively large number of national red lists. Although the lists do reflect unfavourable trends regarding species, they also reveal a high level of knowledge about national biodiversity.

Through implementing environmental policy, progress has been made to reduce nitrogen emission and deposition to improve environmental conditions. The incorporation of this policy into other sectors, including agriculture, transportation and industry, has also advanced. However, nitrogen levels are still too high when considering several policies of the NEN. Some of the reasons for this include high agricultural productivity (including from dairy farms) and the existence of many small sources of nitrogen emissions. Therefore, the feasibility of conceivable measures is often limited due to the considerable social and economic impacts the measure would have. Overall, the reduction of nitrogen emissions and depositions still presents challenges for the country.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Under the fourth replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-4), the Netherlands contributed € 22.25 million per year, of which one-third was spent on biodiversity activities. The main objective of Dutch development cooperation is to help with poverty reduction and economic development, acknowledging that environment and biodiversity are integral to poverty reduction. A number of measures have also been taken through support funds and coordinated by the Dutch NGOs Hivos and Oxfam-Novib. The Netherlands has also contributed to various international and national organizations working with indigenous communities. These programmes often include support to indigenous and local communities to strengthen their rights and facilitate participation in decision-making.

Through the EU Forest Law and Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan (2008), a sustainable trade initiative is promoting collaboration among businesses, NGOs and government to create sustainable production and trade chains for soy, timber, tea, cocoa, natural stone, tourism, cotton and aquaculture. Support has been provided for innovative mechanisms to integrate biodiversity concerns into the areas of economy and finance. The intention is to create a demand and supply mechanism for environmental goods and services and related economic instruments, thereby integrating biodiversity into the economic system.

Further, current biodiversity policy addresses the advice of the Deltacommissie to combine nature and water management efforts for the sake of developing capacity to adapt to climate change.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Monitoring systems are established in the country for evaluating and reporting on biodiversity. A system for monitoring the effectiveness of site management was to be operationalized in 2013.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme