Nature, landscape and biodiversity

Change in species numbers in natural and agricultural areas, 1975-2005

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A decrease in the numbers of target species as defined in Dutch nature policy was seen in agricultural areas, whereas they increased in natural areas.

Nature policy objectives

The aim of Dutch nature policy is to maintain biodiversity in the Netherlands through the conservation, restoration, development and sustainable use of its natural habitats. With this in mind, target species have been defined and their numbers monitored per square kilometre.

Changes in number of target species

In natural areas, the average numbers of target species of vascular plants and summer birds increased between 1990 and 2005, compared with the 1975-1989 period (see left-hand figure). In agricultural areas, it decreased over the same period (see figure right). Butterfly numbers decreased in both types of area, but more so in agricultural areas than in natural areas. An increase in the average number of target species in natural areas does not mean that every species is doing well. Species that make the highest demands on their habitats are becoming increasingly rare, and the red lists of threatened species are growing.

Causes of changes

In recent decades, spatial and environmental conditions have improved for the target species in natural areas, hence the increase in the average number of these species. Not only has the surface area of natural areas increased, but acidifying and nitrogen depositions have decreased, and habitat development and restoration projects have been implemented.
In agricultural areas, the number of target species is decreasing because the soil is being used ever more efficiently for agricultural production. Environmental conditions in these areas are being optimised for the needs of agriculture - maximising production and harvesting efficiency. As a result, fewer species have the space they need to survive.


Archive for this indicator

Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2014). Change in species numbers in natural and agricultural areas, 1975-2005 (indicator 1543, version 01 , 20 May 2014 ). Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.

The Environmental Data Compendium is a partnership of CBS, PBL, RIVM and WUR.