Netherlands map

The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country located in Western Europe, with three island territories in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is geographically a very low and flat country, with about 26% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made, caused by peat extraction or achieved through land reclamation. Nearly 17% of the country's land area is reclaimed from the sea and from lakes. It is anticipated that global warming in the 21st century will result in a rise in sea level. The politically neutral Delta Commission has formulated an action plan to cope with a sea level rise of 1.10 m and a simultaneous land height decline of 10 cm. The plan encompasses the reinforcement of the existing coastal defenses like dikes and dunes with 1.30 m of additional flood protection. The Netherlands has 20 national parks and hundreds of other nature reserves that include lakes, heathland, woods, dunes and other habitats. Most of these are owned by Staatsbosbeheer, the national department for forestry and nature conservation, and Natuurmonumenten ('Natures monuments'), a private organisation that buys, protects and manages nature reserves. The Dutch part of the Wadden Sea in the north, with its tidal flats and wetlands, is rich in biological diversity and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Nature Site in 2009. The territory of the Netherlands belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests. In 1871, the last old original natural woods were cut down, and most woods today are planted monocultures of trees like Scots pine and trees that are not native to the Netherlands. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
3,367,000 hectares
Area of forest
11.2% of land area
Area of agriculture
54.9% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
1.1% of land area


16.9 million
Population growth
0.4% annually
Rural population

Economics and development

GDP from agriculture
GDP per person
44433.40 USD

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
10.10 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
National Restoration Targets
Total restoration target
80,000 hectares
Restoration target
80,000 hectares
Sixth Netherlands National Communication under the UNFCCC (2013)

Over the past decades, forest policy in the Netherlands has been integrated into the nature policy. The development of a nature network is a central theme of the nature (and forest) policy. The nature network is a cohesive network of high-quality nature wetland and terrestrial reserves. 560,000 ha of this network was completed by 2011. The aim is to have converted an additional 80,000 ha into nature reserves by 2027. Part of this will be achieved through afforestation and reforestation. Combating climate change is just one of the benefits of the ecological network (p. 73).

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Country Profiles – NBSAPs, National Reports (5th)
The Natural Way Forward, Government Vision (2014)

The government has designed eight objectives and tasks it plans to fulfil over the coming fifteen to twenty years for the foundations and structure (see figure). The objectives represent public interests around nature as it is at present and in the future, and the government believes they tie in well with the motivation and ambitions of the interested parties in society and in the economy. These will be outlined below. Objectives and actions in the first four paragraphs relate primarily to the structure; in the last four paragraphs they relate more to the foundations (p. 37).

The provincial governments are committed to putting the National Ecological Network in place, as agreed with the government. The Natura 2000 sites are important building blocks of that network. As there is now greater cohesion in the network and a programme-based approach is being applied, similar to that of the Nitrogen Programme, and the relationship with the surrounding areas is becoming more evident, the focus of nature policy can shift from individual protected species and areas to the larger landscape (p. 44).

Under the Pact for Nature of September 2013 the parties have agreed to work towards a robust National Ecological Network. The provinces are responsible for the protection of this network, drawing up the spatial plans, bringing partners and stakeholders together, giving people a greater say in deciding how to make use of it in a sustainable manner. Half of the National Ecological Network consists of Natura 2000 sites. Linking them up not only makes them stronger, it also gives strength to the whole network. (p. 28)

5th National Report of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Efforts are being carried out to complete and manage the National Ecological Network (NEN), including all Natura 2000 sites. This means restoration or reconversion of land into natural ecosystems and defragmentation of natural habitat. (p. 72)

Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Integration of Nature Protection in Forest Policy in the Netherlands

National Ecological Network: by 2020 have 728,500 ha in the network (17.5% national area)

Regarding strategies and policies, one important to mention is the national ecological network (EHS), which was introduced in the 1990s. The goal was to designate 728.500 ha in the EHS by 2020 representing about 17,5% of the land surface of the Netherlands. This would allow for a connection to nature reserves in other European countries through the pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN). In order to achieve that, an additional area of 275.000 ha still needed to be newly created. By 2009, roughly 100.000 ha were realized.

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