The Dutch are front runners when it comes to nature conservation in densely populated areas, and champions in responding imaginatively to what the natural environment has to offer. Furthermore, the international character of Wageningen University is ideal for studying the fascination of nature in all its facets. Professor Martin Kropff, Rector Magnificus, expressed these views in the address he gave on the occasion of Wageningen University’s 97th Dies Natalis.
His Dies Natalis address is the tenth that Prof. Kropff has delivered, but it is also his last. On 1 June 2015, he takes up the post of Director General of the international research centre CIMMYT (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo) in Mexico.
The Netherlands is the first European country to have a policy for actively involving the agricultural sector in nature conservation, the aim being to restore biodiversity. It is not just a question of shaping policy but also ensuring that policy is pursued. The best example of this is a range of conservation agreements made with individual farmers in the 1980s.
Professor Kropff’s address contained another example of his position on nature conservation, namely, the Nature Policy Plan which, several decades ago, led to the National Ecological Network (NEN). The Netherlands was the first country in the European Union to set up a coherent ecological network. It served as an example for the Natura2000 nature policy developed by the European Union.
Building with nature
The Dutch are also champions in thinking up imaginative uses of nature in order to achieve all sorts of useful landscape objectives, Professor Kropff claims. The idea of ‘building with nature’ is a purely Dutch concept. An example he mentioned is the construction of water features in flood plains; water is captured at high tides in order to protect the dikes. Another example is the use of sand nourishment off the Dutch coast (the Sand Engine) to influence sea currents in a way that is beneficial to the coastal environment. There is also the example of constructing artificial oyster banks to provide extra protection for coast and dike.