Nature and Landscape Index

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The Nature and Landscape Index (Index NL) shows the quality of natural areas and landscapes and the way the quality is developing. This index replaces the 'nature target types' (i.e. combinations of plant and animal species preferred for a particular area) as well as the management packages (Programma Beheerpakketten) and the typologies used by the various managers of natural areas, thus creating a uniform terminology for nature management.

Common terminology for the Index NL

Index NL is a typology of natural areas, describing their nature in terms of management types. These management types can be used to regulate the management of natural areas, and constitute a basis for agreements between the provincial authorities and the area managers about targets and resources. A management type is therefore not a specific form of management, such as integrated forest management, but a type of natural area which requires a particular form of management. Examples of management types include 'dry heathland', 'wet heathland', 'dune woodland' and 'shifting sands'.

  • The Index comprises the following components: Nature (N), Agricultural areas (A) and Landscape elements (L).
  • Nature. For the purpose of management, natural areas in the Netherlands have been categorised into 17 so-called 'nature types', subdivided into 47 management types. These are based on management and abiotic conditions such as water balance, environment and trophic status. The management types comprise a description of a specific type of natural habitat and prescribe an average package of management measures, with a standardised cost price.
  • Agricultural areas. For the purpose of countryside stewardship schemes, two agricultural 'nature types' have been defined, subdivided into 7 management types. The agricultural management types comprise a set of concrete management measures that the area manager is obliged to implement. Financial compensation is allocated on the basis of loss of income and costs of implementation. Within these sets, management packages have been defined which provide instructions for management.
  • Landscape elements. The landscape elements are classified into four types, subdivided into a total of 20 management types. Fifteen of these landscape management types relate to nature management, while all 20 relate to agricultural areas. Specific management packages have been defined for each type.

The classification into management types is insufficiently detailed for the Natura 2000 areas. The Netherlands has to report to the European Commission regarding species conservation at the level of habitat types, which can be aggregated to the level of management types.

Provincial nature management plans

Nature management plans constitute an instrument that is used to implement provincial nature targets down to the level of individual areas. The central element in a provincial nature management plan is establishing the boundaries of the management types from the Index of Nature and Landscape. The plan indicates for each area exactly which management type is eligible to be subsidised and on what conditions. Under the Subsidy System for Nature and Landscape Management (SNL), subsidies can only be granted for the management types included in the nature management plan.
The nature management plan consists of a map of nature management types (included in the Indicator) and a map of the ambitions. The management types map shows the current status of nature for the purpose of nature management and countryside stewardship. The ambitions map shows the provincial authorities' objectives ('ambitions') for nature. Since not all Dutch provinces will have completed the process of assessing the current management and the ambitions in 2014, the ambitions map has not been included in the Indicator.
The ambitions map is to show what nature type could be implemented in about 10 years' time. Differences between the management types map and the ambitions map will then indicate where the existing quality of nature areas can be further improved or where new natural habitats need to be created. These areas could be eligible for subsidies under the national quality incentive for nature and landscape (Kwaliteitsimpuls natuur en landschap or SKNL) or for redevelopment subsidies (inrichtingssubsidie). These maps can only be used in combination with the information from the nature management plans.

Monitoring the quality of natural areas

Index NL can not only be used to regulate target-based management and the funding of nature and landscape management, but also to monitor the quality of natural areas. The following parameters are important for the specification of quality levels for the management types: flora and fauna, structure, abiotic conditions and spatial conditions. In addition, the way the quality is to be determined has been specified for each parameter for each management type, in terms of the number of species that have to be present and what species should be present, the water tables required, important structural elements, etc. These criteria are used to define three quality classes: 'good', 'moderate' and 'poor'. The quality, and any changes in it, are to be determined with the help of a basic monitoring system, consisting of vegetation mapping, surveying three groups of species (mostly birds, plants and butterflies) and measurements of environmental conditions (water table drawdown, eutrophication, acidification and spatial conditions) and structural characteristics of the areas.


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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Nature and Landscape Index (indicator 1544, version 03,

) 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.