Nature, landscape and biodiversity

Trend in ecological quality, 1994-2014

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Since 1994 the average ecological quality of all types of terrestrial ecosystems has declined. This decline has now been halted and conditions have even improved slightly in recent years.

Terrestrial ecosystem quality

Monitoring data for a group of characteristic species and target species per ecosystem indicate that the average quality of terrestrial ecosystems has declined since 1994. In recent years this decline has been halted and there has even been a slight increase in ecosystem quality.

The trend differs for each type of ecosystem. For example, in recent years the quality of semi-natural grasslands and marshes has stopped declining, whereas the quality of open dunes and heath is still declining. The quality of forest ecosystems is declining at a slower rate. The graph also shows that terrestrial ecosystem quality is lower than it would be in an intact ecosystem (index = 100%). By 'intact ecosystem' we mean an ecosystem that has not been affected by eutrophication, drying out, fragmentation or other environmental impacts. The average ecosystem quality over all ecosystem types is around 40%.

Causes of decline in quality

Land reclamation, agricultural intensification and urban development have reduced the area of natural ecosystems. The quality of the remaining natural ecosystems in the Netherlands has declined in recent decades due to the effects of eutrophication, acidification, water table drawdown and drying out of soils, poor water quality and a lack of spatial connectivity. The precise causes of these effects and the strength of the impacts differ according to the type of ecosystem and between regions. Since 1990, the pressures on the environment in terms of emissions and deposition has declined and land use conditions have improved due to habitat creation in the National Ecological Network (NEN). However, sustainable conditions have not yet been achieved. These suboptimal environmental and land use conditions mean that ecosystem quality is low and is often declining further. The precise causes of this decline vary from one ecosystem type to another.

Policy seeks to improve ecosystem quality

The Netherlands has made international commitments to meeting the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Birds and Habitats Directives (Natura 2000) and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. In the Nature Pact (Natuurpact) the national and provincial governments have agreed to raise ecological quality through the creation of the National Ecological Network and by making extra efforts for habitat restoration and management and taking measures to improve water and environmental conditions.


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Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2018). Trend in ecological quality, 1994-2014 (indicator 2052, version 06 , 1 May 2018 ). 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.