Summary Nature balance 2006

01-12-2006 | Publication

The Dutch countryside is losing its rural and open character and is increasingly affected by visually intrusive developments. More and more farm buildings have a purely residential function, and farming is becoming more industrial in character. Dutch nature is becoming more uniform. The numbers of characteristic plant and animal species continue to fall, although the area of wildlife habitat and protected areas has expanded and environmental conditions have improved. The EU target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 probably cannot be achieved in the Netherlands.

Dutch nature and landscapes more uniform

By conserving and creating valuable wildlife habitat and characteristic landscapes, can the Netherlands– a densely populated delta – remain an attractive place to live, work and recreate? And has the Netherlands been successful in conserving its ecosystems and habitats of international conservation value? This Nature Balance looks back over the last 15 years and answers these questions.

A more urban countryside

Over the last 15 years the built-up area has increased by more than 20%. Less has been built in areas subject to a restrictive policy than elsewhere. Visual intrusion is more extensive and open landscapes are being eroded. The countryside has become less rural: more people have moved from the cities to converted farms, recreational activities have increased and farming has become more industrial in nature. Some areas are assuming either an industrial or a parkland character.

Nature increasingly uniform

In the period 1990–2005 about 50,000 hectares of land were reclaimed for wildlife habitats. Habitat quality has improved as a result of improved environmental and land use conditions, a more favourable landscape structure and better land management. But this has not been enough to prevent Dutch nature becoming less diverse, or halt the decline in numbers of many plant and animal species. For a large number of species and sites, including some internationally unique habitats, the situation is still unfavourable. The European Union, and by extension the Netherlands too, has set a target of halting the decline in biodiversity by 2010. Despite the nature conservation policies it has pursued, the Netherlandsis unlikely to achieve this target by 2010.


The Nature Balance is an annual report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on trends in the quality of nature and the landscape in the light of the policies pursued. Including the first Nature Outlook in 1997, this Nature Balance 2006 is the tenth national report on current trends in nature and the landscape. Against this background we look back over a longer period. The baseline year is 1990, just before the publication of several key policy documents, such as the Nature Policy Plan and the Landscape Policy Plan.

Important contributions have been made by Alterra and the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, both part of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR). Much of the data used in the analyses for this Nature Balance were made available by other organisations, particularly Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and several non-governmental organisations.