Sustainable development

Nature and Landscape Index

The Nature and Landscape Index (Index NL) indicates the presence and locations of management types of natural and semi-natural areas in the Netherlands and is the basis for the provincial nature conservation management plans. The provinces use Index NL when allocating funding for management activities and to obtain information on status and trends in ecological and landscape quality. Index NL consists of a uniform national typology of ecosystems expressed in terms of 'management types'. The national map of these management types gives a standardised picture of the presence of the different types of natural and semi-natural areas in the Netherlands.

Terminology for Index NL

The Nature and Landscape Index (Index NL) is a typology of ecosystems integrated into a number of categories called 'nature types', which are further subdivided into management types (specific ecosystem types for which a certain management regime applies). These management types can be used to inform site management and they form the basis for agreements between the province and site managers on management objectives and resources. A management type is therefore not a form of management, such as integrated forest management, but a category of ecosystem defined by a particular form of management. Examples of management types include 'dry heathland', 'wet heathland', 'dune woodland' and 'shifting sands'. The map above shows the locations of the nature and management types of the Nature component of the Index, aggregated into a more general ecosystem classification.

The Index comprises the following components: Nature (N), Agriculture (A) and Landscape Elements (L).

  • Nature. For nature conservation management purposes, natural and semi-natural areas in the Netherlands are categorised into 17 nature types (natuurtypen), which are subdivided into 48 management types (beheertypen). The management types are defined by a management regime and abiotic conditions, such as hydrological conditions and trophic status. The management types consist of a description of a specific type of natural or semi-natural area and prescribe a general package of management measures at a standard cost price for funding.
  • Agricultural areas. For agri-environment management purposes, seven agricultural nature types have been defined, subdivided into 18 management types. The agricultural management types comprise several groups of management packages which farmers are required to comply with; participation in a collective management plan is obligatory. Financial compensation is awarded on the basis of loss of income and implementation costs. The individual management packages each contain a set of prescribed management measures.
  • Landscape elements. Landscape elements are classified into four types, which are subdivided into 13 management types.

Provincial nature conservation management plans

The nature conservation management plan is an instrument for implementing provincial conservation objectives at the level of individual sites. The key element in the nature conservation management plan is defining the presence and boundaries of the management types described in Index NL. The plan sets out for each area which management type is eligible for funding and the conditions that apply. Under the Nature and Landscape Management Subsidy System (SNL), funding can only be given for management types included in the nature conservation management plan.

The nature conservation management plan contains a map of management types (included in the indicator) and an ambitions map. The management types map shows the current state of nature with respect to the management objectives and the areas eligible for agri-environment funding. The ambitions map shows the province's nature conservation objectives for the next five to ten years in terms of the area and quality of nature types. In areas where the ambition level is higher and ecological quality can be improved, funding may be obtained under the 'quality initiative for nature and landscape' (Kwaliteitsimpuls natuur en landschap or SKNL) and the subsidy scheme for converting agricultural land to nature and improving the ecological quality of existing natural or semi-natural areas (inrichtingssubsidie). These maps can only be used in combination with the nature conservation management plans.

Monitoring ecological quality

Besides being instrumental in objective-based management and funding landscape and conservation management, Index NL can also be used for monitoring ecological quality. The following parameters are particularly relevant for defining quality levels for management types: flora and fauna, structure, abiotic environmental conditions and spatial conditions (area of the management types and ecological connectivity). Moreover, the 'large-scale dynamic ecosystem' nature type is assessed for the presence of landscape-forming processes and key species that belong in such landscapes, such as the beaver and wild boar. How quality is to be determined, is specified for each parameter for each management type: the number of species and which species should be present, water tables, important structural elements, etc. These criteria are used to define three quality classes: 'high', 'moderate' and 'poor'. Changes in quality are detected through a basic monitoring system consisting of vegetation mapping, surveying three species groups (qualifying species are mainly breeding birds, vascular plants and butterflies) and measuring environmental conditions (reduced groundwater levels/desiccation, eutrophication, acidification, ecological connectivity) and structural characteristics (variety in vegetation structure) of the sites. The map above provides the basis for this monitoring and assessment. At the moment data are being assembled according to the Index NL methodology (BIJ12, 2018). Until the monitoring data become available, an approximation of the method is being used to calculate the ecological quality for flora and fauna and environmental conditions.


Relevant information

Archive for this indicator

Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2021). Nature and Landscape Index (indicator 1544, version 04 , 10 November 2021 ). 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.