Autumn has arrived, and with it the season for planting hedges, hedges and forest strips. They have great value for the landscape and nature. But we are also busy reaching our own climate goals and complying with European agreements on nature protection.
In 2030, at least 5 percent of rural areas must consist of “blue-green veins” – and in 2050 ten percent. Now it is 2 to 3 percent.
Forces must be combined with a plan of attack presented on Wednesday. The sender is the Deltaplan Biodiversity Recovery Foundation, a collaboration between researchers, companies, farmers and other citizens who want to restore the natural richness of species in the Netherlands. This is rapidly decreasing in insects, plants and birds.
A relatively simple way to stop and even reverse the loss of biodiversity is to reduce so-called landscape elements. This is a collective term for all kinds of often living objects and partitions, such as willows, loose trees, narrow forest strips, natural banks, standard plantations and hedgerows.
Hedgerows are hidden highways for wild plants and animals
Until the last century, the Dutch countryside was crossed by hundreds of thousands of kilometers of such green connections. They served as property boundaries and cattle barriers, and they often also provided food such as fruit and nuts.
With the increase in the scale of agriculture and the arrival of barbed wire, they were destroyed en masse. As a result, not only was a lot of habitat lost for plants and animals, but also the ability to move through the landscape.
There is now a growing movement in the Netherlands of people replanting hedges themselves. They have a high natural value and yet take up little space, which means that they often combine well with other forms of land use.
The whole of Europe will once again have green connections
The existing initiatives must now be scaled up quickly, said Deltaplan chairman Louise Vet to NU.nl. The Netherlands must also comply with European agreements on nature protection. Ultimately, at least 10 percent of rural areas must consist of natural connections.
“The goal of our attack plan is that we must now also work at provincial and municipal level and at the water boards, so that we can jointly realize that 10 percent veining.”
It looks very different per area, says the vet. It depends on the soil and cultural history. The graves of Limburg, the pilot whales of Groene Hart or the canals of Friesland: each province has its own characteristic landscape elements, and if it is up to Vet, they will soon be recognizable again.
Planting kills several birds with one stone
She presented the plan on Wednesday afternoon to Nature and Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal and to Pieter van Geel, who is responsible for the so-called ‘Forest Strategy’ within the national climate agreement. With this, the government wants to plant 37,000 hectares of forest in the period up to 2030, in order to capture extra CO2.
In fact, conservationists say: think carefully about where and in what form you plant these forests. Nature benefits from an increased variety. It is therefore not a good idea to close clearings in existing forests.
The yield for nature is maximized if trees are planted more often in hedgerows and narrow forest strips. It is also the best approach to make nature more resistant to increasing heat damage, say ecologists to NU.nl.
Restoring landscape features is a “win-win”, says vet. “It contributes to the restoration of biodiversity, climate, improvement of soil and water quality and helps restore area-specific identity. And it must also be a structurally sustainable source of income for farmers.”
For those who want to get started with hedges and other landscape elements: the natural value is highest with a mixture of native trees and shrubs, preferably from wild populations.