Dutch must take action to preserve its natural assets, says WNF

Young hedgehog in natural habitat
Young hedgehog in natural habitat

The Netherlands will lose important natural assets if nothing is done to restore the damage doen by nitrogen and drought, a study by the Dutch branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature WNF has shown.

Nitrogen compound pollution, climate change and a lack of biodiversity are putting pressure on flora and fauna, the report said, with declining numbers of partridges, adders, larks and  natterjack toads. Rabbits and hedgehogs, which used to abound, are also under threat.

Plant varieties in dunes, heathland and in agricultural areas are also fewer in number, the report said.

The large-scale restoration of the natural landscape offers a way out of what would otherwise be a serious scenario for the future, the WNF said. However, it added, while rivers and wetlands have profited from restoration it has proven more difficult on land where habitats are slowly but surely disappearing.

There have been some successes with nature restoration in the Netherlands, with improved water quality prompting otters to return to the Biesbosch natural park. Beavers, which boost diversity, are proliferating as well while designated crossings help wildlife.  Peregrine falcons are also doing well thanks to the ban on pesticides and their fondness for nesting sites in built up areas.

‘We must give 100% to the restoration of nature. More space for nature also means we are tackling the big challenges we are facing in this country. Nature is our ally. But we need to act now or it will be too late,’ said local WNF chief Kirsten Haanraads.

The WNF is pinning its hopes on the European nature restoration law which will come to the vote this summer. The Netherlands is not in favour of the law because of fears stricter rules could put the brakes on economic activity, despite assurances to the contrary.

The WNF said more public pressure is needed to get the government to support the law. ‘A strong European nature restoration law will will create space for nature as well as a nature-positive economy,’ Haanraads said.

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