The Netherlands is not going to meet 2020 biodiversity targets

November 19, 2019

The accelerating rate of biodiversity decline is unprecedented. Together with global warming this is one of the major threats to mankind, IPBES states in its report: ‘First Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’. Drastic measures are necessary to prevent the extinction of 500,000 to 1,000,000 plant- and animal species in the coming decades, says IPBES.

Given that biodiversity is essential for human life on earth, the biodiversity in the Netherlands and the Caribbean islands were examined and reported to the national government. Is biodiversity declining rapidly in the Netherlands? What is the country doing to stop the loss of biodiversity and how effective are the measures taken? These questions are addressed in the WOT-technical Report 156.

Biodiversity is declining

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries of the world, with the largest part of its land surface consisting of highly productive agricultural land. Various measures to increase agricultural production, such as drainage of wet areas and use of chemical fertilisers, but also urbanisation, pollution and overfishing led to a deterioration of the country’s biodiversity during the past century. Hardly any area can be called untouched and almost 40% of the species that the Netherlands placed on a Red List are in some state of threat.

Effectiveness of measures in the Netherlands.

To turn the tide of biodiversity loss, the Netherlands has drafted various plans and set targets for biodiversity and have been taken measures since 1990. A lot of progress has been made by the measures taken. Since 2011 around 33,000 hectares of nature became available and since 2005 fauna blockage caused by 114 infrastructural bottlenecks, were dissolved through ecoducts and other wildlife passages. Progress has, however, been insufficient to reach the national targets before the set time of 2020. The national ecological network (NEN, as a follow-up of the EHS, Ecological Main Structure) is the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation in the Netherlands. This will be completed by 2027.

The population of meadow birds has declined with 30% since 1990 and is still declining, with 72% of nature areas continuously being burdened, in lesser or more quantities, with nitrogen depositions. The fishery sector is also still not fully sustainable. According to the Dutch Marine Strategy only 26% of the commercial fish and shellfish stocks are being exploited in a sustainable way. Populations of (long-lived) sharks, rays and many benthos species that live on the seabed, are still not recovering. Stocks of important fish like haring, sole and plaice are positively seen as being sustainable at the moment.

Biodiversity on the Caribbean islands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands also includes six Caribbean islands. Tropical cloud forests, salt marshes (saliñas), mangroves and coral reefs can be found there. These areas form the habitat of hundreds of endemic and endangered species. Nature and biodiversity of the islands are vulnerable. Most areas are relatively small while the threats are grave. The biodiversity of our Caribbean islands is (even) worse off than in the Netherlands itself.

National Report on Biodiversity

The IPBES-report is the scientific basis for the renewal of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) that has to be agreed by UN member states and parties (among which the Netherlands) in 2020. The CBD from 1992 was drawn up in close connection with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in that same year. Besides the IPBES-report, parties themselves also compiled a CBD-Report about the state of nature and biodiversity in their nation. The current Dutch report was sent by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to Parliament on 12 July 2019. The contents of this National Report, compiled by Wageningen University & Research, is now given in an accessible manner and aiming for an attractive layout, in the WOT-technical report 156.