Land use (Netherlands)
Why should we care about this issue
Due to the high population density in the Netherlands land has become very scarce. Housing, industrial production and transportation continue to require more land. These land-use changes have negative impacts on the availability and suitability of the land for biodiversity, recreation and agriculture. This contribution focuses on impacts of land use changes on the state of land use and groundwater Impacts on biodiversity and surface water quality are discussed in other contributions.
The state and impacts
The national spatial planning policies aim to reduce negative impacts of land fragmentation caused by urban sprawl. There are goals to intensify urban land use, to improve natural habitat connectivity and to prevent landscape cluttering.
Figure 1: Urban intensification between 2000 and 2005.
Source: http://www.compendiumvoordeleefomgeving.nl/indicatoren/nl2012-Woningbouw-binnen-bebouwd-gebied.html?i=30-151 )
During the period between 2002 and 2005, more than 40 % of new housing was built within existing urban areas in most provinces. This development fits in with policy aims to prevent urban sprawl and to improve urban facilities.
Figure 2: Land fragmentation indices for natural habitats.
Since 1990, the connectivity of natural habitats has increased to 50 % of the national objective, due to a national strategy to enlarge and connect natural areas.
Figure 3: Landscape perception.
Source: http://www.compendiumvoordeleefomgeving.nl/indicatoren/nl1408-Visuele-verstoring-van-belevingswaarde-landschap.html?i=12-9 )
In 2005, the landscape perception of one-third of the Dutch landscape was negatively influenced by visible intrusive elements, including infrastructure, industrial parks and massive buildings such as glass houses and large stables.
Figure 2: Groundwater quality indices for nitrates (upper left), http://www.compendiumvoordeleefomgeving.nl/indicatoren/nl0271-Nitraat-in-het-bovenste-grondwater-onder-landbouwgebieden.html?i=11-14, phosphates (upper right), http://www.pbl.nl/nl/publicaties/2009/milieubalans/index.html, chemical balance in groundwater bodies (lower left, ) and heavy metals (lower right), http://www.compendiumvoordeleefomgeving.nl/indicatoren/nl0266-Zware-metalen-in-landbouwgronden.html?i=11-14
The European Nitrates and Water Framework Directives have introduced standards for emission and groundwater concentrations of nitrates and phosphates, in order to prevent eutrophication of habitats, groundwater bodies and surface-water systems. The reduction of phosphate surplus on agriculture land and the nitrate concentration in groundwater were caused by intensification of standards for manuring, which has resulted in less application of manure and fertiliser. In 2009, the average surplus of phosphate on agricultural land was 40 kg/ha P2O5. Nitrate concentrations do not yet meet the standards, especially in the sandy regions. Recently, the rate of reduction has slowed down. However, most of the Dutch groundwater bodies meet the chemical standards, resulting from the fact that the Netherlands apply the standards of the Water Framework Directive in greater depth in the groundwater than those of the Nitrates Directive.
High concentrations of heavy metals in the soil have negative impacts on soil ecosystems and might threaten the quality of crops. The standards for heavy metals are being exceeded in large parts of the Netherlands, mainly resulting from historic emissions from zinc melting furnaces in the south-west, and the past application of urban compost in peat areas in the west. Exceedence of copper standards mainly originates from application of chemical fertilizers and manure. Due to legislation copper and zinc concentrations in these substances have reduced significantly since 2000.
The key drivers and pressures
Population and households
Figure 3: Development of population and number of households in the Netherlands. Source: (http://statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLNL&PA=37556&D1=0-2,16-20&D2=a&HD=100119-1125&HDR=T&STB=G1 )
The Dutch population has grown to 16.49 million inhabitants in 2009. Life expectancy is still increasing, both for men and women. The number of households (7.24 million in 2009) and the need for housing are increasing faster than the population.
Urban land and nature reserves on the increase
Fig. 4: Relative contribution of land-cover categories to uptake by urban and other artificial land development (a) and nature reserves (b) (CORINE)
During the period between 1990 and 2004, both urban land and nature reserves have increased in size, while agricultural land areas have decreased. This development is the same for the rest of Europe. Abandonment of agricultural land is stimulated through government funding in nature management organisation for the acquisition of agricultural land and nature development purposes.
Agricultural emissions decreased
Emissions of nitrates and phosphates from agricultural land have decreased sharply during the last decades, due to legislation. The decrease in emissions to land from manuring was also stimulated by an adaptation of animal feed, and by the decline in livestock numbers resulting from production quota and cattle diseases. These emission reductions improved the quality of groundwater.
Figure 5: Emissions of nitrogen and phosphate from Dutch agriculture.
The 2020 outlook
Expansion of urban land areas and nature reserves will continue
Connectivity of habitats will increase further
Figure 7: Two scenarios for growth of
nature surface area.
Estimated decrease of nitrate in groundwater insufficient to reach standards
8: Projection of nitrate concentrations in groundwater.
Existing and planned responses
Spatial planning policies (status January 2010) include:
- Order in Council Spatial Planning (AMvB Ruimte) reconfirms national aims to reduce urban sprawl and to establish a national ecological network to increase habitat connectivity.
- Action Programme against landscape cluttering (Beautiful Netherlands) aims to reduce development of new commercial zones by redeveloping the old commercial zones.
- Long-range programme restoring habitat defragmentation (Meerjarenprogramma Ontsnippering).
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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