The human race is directly and indirectly dependent on biodiversity. In addition to our food, the vast majority of our building materials, medicines and industrial raw materials are of biological origin. The economic and social value of biodiversity is enormous. At least 40% of the world economy depends on natural resources, while 80% of the world’s poorest people rely on these resources to meet their basic needs. But global biodiversity is under great pressure. According to some biologists, we are currently in the middle of a sixth wave of extinction, and the first to be caused by man.

Working to save biodiversity: the Wageningen approach

The starting point of all research conducted at Wageningen University & Research is that nature is not a raw material, but a partner on whom we are dependent for our survival. This forms the basis for innovations that facilitate the recovery and sustainable management of biodiversity and the renewal and improvement of genetic diversity, so that robust ecological and agricultural systems can be created that are resistant to climate change and pollution and that will continue to provide essential goods and services far into the future. One of the essential pillars of this research is our understanding of the dynamics of ecosystem resilience. We work together with social partners to promote ecosystem restoration as an investment in the future.

Bees and other pollinating insects

The honeybee is just one of the 350 species of bees found in the Netherlands. Wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) form an enormously diverse group of pollinators who feel at home both in nature reserves and in the city. Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are not only examining which factors are important for the health of honeybees, but for other pollinating insects as well.

Grassland birds

Populations of grassland birds in the Netherlands have been declining for decades. The only way we can safeguard stable populations for the future is by improving the way we use and manage current grassland bird habitats.

Agricultural biodiversity

Soil and biodiversity are important for a future-proof agricultural sector. The starting point today is agroecology; agriculture aimed at building viable farms based on natural processes. Examples of this include strip cropping, mixed cropping and agroforestry.

Naturally resistant flowers and plants

A biodiverse environment can help flowers and plants to regain their natural resistance and so keep diseases and pests under control. Resistant soils, resistant plants and sustainable cultivation systems are all an important part of this, and can be combined with techniques such as crop rotation, mixed cropping or flower-rich field margins with host plants for valuable insects. But we also need state-of-the-art tools to understand how natural resistance works so that we can identify and understand the enormous group of soil microorganisms and develop practical applications.

Dairy farming

Biodiversity is becoming an increasingly important factor for the reputation and export position of the Dutch dairy industry. This industry has set itself the goal of maintaining biodiversity on dairy farms at minimum the 2011 level. The WUR Dairy Campus is exploring how to help improve biodiversity for the benefit of farmers, the public and the dairy herds.

Marine and freshwater biodiversity

Our seas and rivers are full of life, but the biodiversity of these waters is threatened by human activities. Experts from Wageningen University & Research are studying various aspects of marine and aquatic habitats, from plastic waste and wind farms in the North Sea to coral reefs and sharks on the Saba Bank..

Data for policy-making

Our common interest in biodiversity is enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). NLBIF is a Dutch data hub and part of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Various institutes of Wageningen University & Research participate in NLBIF/GBIF and the University is currently one of the largest European suppliers of open data on biodiversity. The Dutch Environmental Compendium for the Living Environment, co-edited by Wageningen University & Research, provides a wealth of facts and figures on nature and the environment.

Added value for and with nature

The centuries-old relationship between agriculture and nature is the focus of much attention today. How can we ensure a healthy balance between nature for recreation and agriculture and the conservation and management of biodiversity? Wageningen University & Research is exploring various earning models in which nature plays an integral role, whereby the core of the business model is not only to generate profits through agricultural production, but also to add value to nature and simultaneously benefit from natural processes.

Urban biodiversity

Our cities are dependent on natural processes, for example to drain off rainwater and reduce heat. Trees provide cleaner air, bees pollinate flowers and green spaces are demonstrably benefical for our well-being. But nature is intrinsically valuable too. Researchers from Wageningen are involved in various projects on themes such as endangered animals and plants in the city, tiny forests, urban agriculture, and green buildings and industrial areas. “Giant steps have been taken, but there are also major barriers.”