Environmental Data Compendium
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Nature, landscape and biodiversity

Barriers and fragmentation in the Dutch National Ecological Network, 2005-2012

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On 1 January 2013, about 32% of the 215 obstacles in the Dutch National Ecological Network (Ecologische Hoofdstructuur or EHS) caused by national infrastructure had been completely eliminated, while 26% had been partially eliminated.

Slow progress of projects to solve fragmentation of National Ecological Network (EHS)

Dutch nature policy aims to create sustainable conditions for the continued presence of all species that were present in the Netherlands in 1982. Many conservation areas in the Netherlands are intersected by roads, waterways and railways, which may hamper the migration of species like badgers, foxes, deer, frogs, reptiles, newts, polecats, rabbits, birds, bats, mice, insects and/or spiders. The multi-year defragmentation programme (Meerjarenprogramma Ontsnippering or MJPO) has identified 215 obstacles caused by national infrastructure. The target of the programme is to eliminate these obstacles by 2018 at the latest. Efforts to eliminate them involve measures like green bridges, wildlife underpasses, eco-culverts, wildlife overpasses at tree crown level and hop-overs. In many cases, existing bridges and viaducts are evaluated for opportunities to make them suitable as wildlife overpasses. The use of wildlife grids or guiding animal movements by hedges or ridges with tree stumps is a tried and tested approach. By the end of 2012, 32% of the obstacles had been eliminated, while 26% had been partially eliminated. In this context, 'eliminated' means that measures have been taken to address these obstacles. A monitoring programme will be needed to assess whether these measures are working as intended and have eliminated the barriers posed by the infrastructure.

Progress of EHS defragmentation projects: provincial perspective

The Dutch provinces differ in terms of the number of obstacles causing fragmentation, as well as in the rate of progress of defragmentation projects. The degree to which obstacles had been eliminated in 2012 ranged from 9% to 67%. No general conclusions can be drawn as to the causes of these differences between provinces.

New spatial policy for EHS

The objective of the network of natural areas in the Netherlands (Natuurnetwerk Nederland), which is called Ecologische Hoofdstructuur (EHS; National Ecological Network) in Dutch law, is to create a coherent network of natural areas. The EHS is the main Dutch contribution to the international effort to reduce the loss of biodiversity. The creation of new natural habitats aims to expand and interconnect the habitats of various species. The 2013 covenant called 'Natuurpact' includes agreements between the national and provincial governments about nature policy and the expansion of the EHS. The total surface area of newly created natural habitats will grow by 120,000 ha until 2027. Part of this - about 80,000 ha - involves the redevelopment of land that has already been acquired. The agreements between the national and provincial governments also refer to improving the spatial coherence between the various natural areas. The provincial authorities will elaborate their plans over the coming years. In addition, the national government will complete the multi-year defragmentation programme (MJPO) so as to eliminate the 215 obstacles in the EHS caused by national infrastructure. The present prognosis is that 78% of obstacles will have been solved by the end of 2018. The government's decision to cut short the programme for the creation of robust links between natural areas means that 48 obstacles will not be eliminated before this deadline. Any new infrastructure will be implemented in accordance with the statutory requirements.

Policy objectives in the long-term vision for infrastructure and spatial planning (Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte)

The present indicator refers to the following policy goals and national concerns:

  • Safeguarding a liveable and safe environment which preserves unique natural and historical values (liveable and safe).
  • National Concern no. 11: opportunities for preserving and reinforcing unique national and international historical and natural qualities.

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Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2014). Barriers and fragmentation in the Dutch National Ecological Network, 2005-2012 (indicator 2051, version 08 , 27 June 2014 ). www.environmentaldata.nl. 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.