(KB-36) Many indicators of our planet’s biodiversity show a decline, whether it’s brackish and marine systems in the Netherlands, common birds in Europe, or insect populations in Germany. Analysis by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity indicates that agriculture accounts for 70% of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity. Moreover, according to UNESCO, 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably. We similarly lose landscapes and landscape diversity which provide habitats for all species at an alarming rate. As biodiversity is also a provider of natural capital and ecosystem services, it is a fundamental basis for resilient food, fiber, and bio-fuel production systems and for improving livelihoods. Given the increasing pressure on land and sea, consequential to an increasing need for food, fiber and energy production, increased urban sprawl, tourism and mobility, exacerbated by effects of climate change, biodiversity needs to be prioritized. The goal of this programme therefore is to understand functioning of ecological systems and to develop and implement systemic solutions to enhance biodiversity while providing for the needs of society.
Many countries, not least the Netherlands, will face huge challenges in the coming decades: the perspective of a low-fossil fuel, green, liveable/healthy, and resilient society is appealing, but necessitates tough decisions in the short term regarding spatial planning of land, sea and river landscapes and the way current social and economic practices affect decision making in all levels. In our vision, developing terrestrial and marine social-ecological systems values both the dynamics and intrinsic value of the ecosystems in themselves as well as their human economic functions. This means that WUR researchers use the following guiding principles in their work: (1) Biodiversity first: we encourage ourselves and our stakeholders to integrate biodiversity as a key component in project and programme delivery; (2) Nature-inclusive: we tackle the challenges and opportunities by delivering nature-based solutions: at the appropriate scales, socially inclusive, climate and economically resilient.