Smartphones are replacing maps and guide booklets, offering people a new way to find their way in unfamiliar territory.
This is now also true for the Natura 2000 sites in the Netherlands. Alterra, part of Wageningen UR has developed a mobile application for Android and iPhone to inform interested citizens about the Natura 2000 areas. The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.
Citizen participation in policy processes has become an increasingly important concern of the Ministry in recent years. Modern information and communication technologies can help in this respect. 'To explore the possibilities offered by the new technologies, we developed a mobile application about Natura 2000 for the Ministry', said Anne Schmidt. 'With it, people can request information about the nearest Natura 2000 areas, the boundaries of the nature sites, the type of landscape and ecological features.'
The information displayed comes from the Ministry's regions database and is based on the location indicated by the smartphone. 'There are various levels of information', said Schmidt. 'At the national level, you can see where Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands are located. You can also look up what area is closest to you, with aerial photographs showing the boundaries of the area, and you can request information on the habitats and species found there. But not only can people retrieve information, they can also give feedback by scoring certain aspects of the Natura 2000 sites. Via an Internet connection, people can pass along observations as well, for example, for the Nature Calendar. Or report the dumping of chemical waste. That should help the Ministry achieve its goal of stimulating citizen participation.'The mobile application was tested by people in the ministerial departments involved in the project. In the meantime, Natura 2000 programme management has decided to publish the application.