Nature restoration

Ecological Sustainability

The decline of many natural areas and species is a great concern. In the Netherlands, nitrogen deposition and poor water quality are significant causes of this decline. There are also other causes, such as fragmentation, urbanisation and climate change. Loss of biodiversity also ultimately has economic effects.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity decline is due to a complex of interrelated factors. Species are disappearing due to reduced food supply, environmental pollution, diseases, drought and heat caused by climate change.

Food web
An ecosystem consists of multiple food chains of plants and animals that are each other’s food source (food pyramid). Most food chains are intertwined by common links. The food web is like a carefully constructed structure; take out a few supporting parts, and the structure is in danger of collapsing. Insects are essential as a food source for birds and pollinating plants. If the number of insects declines sharply, it can lead to a chain of reactions in the food web. Biodiversity is an indispensable pillar of ecosystem survival.

Landscape ecology
Relationships exist between soil, water and air (abiotic environment) and living nature. A diversity of landscapes has arisen through variations in soil quality and stratification, availability and quality of ground and surface water and climatic conditions (temperature, humidity, precipitation). Specific habitats have emerged in which particular life communities have formed. Because of insufficient consideration of landscape coherence, specific habitats may disappear, including plant and animal species niches.

Natural selection
Within an ecosystem, species know to some extent how to adapt to changes in the availability of food, water and climatic conditions. Some species are better at this than others. Species that know how to adapt better have a greater chance of survival. As a result of environmental pollution and climate change, particular species suffer more than others and threaten to disappear.

Changing perspectives

There is an increasing awareness of the importance of biodiversity. Intensive economic activities and urbanisation have led to new action perspectives (discourses), recognising the mutual ties between economic and ecological systems. Economic activities and urbanisation processes are deemed to consider the limits ecosystems place on space use and environmental pollution.

Nature network
Due to increasing urbanisation and infrastructure, natural areas have become fragmented. In isolated nature reserves, species are in danger of disappearing as living, foraging, and predating areas diminish, and the gene pool becomes impoverished. With these predicaments in mind, new policies have emerged to establish and reinforce a National Nature Network, including nature reserves (NNN). At the European level, there is the network of Natura 2000 areas. Within this network of interconnected habitats, species can thrive and disperse.

Building with nature
Nature is not necessarily an obstacle to economic development and urbanisation. There are win-win opportunities. Based on expert knowledge, natural processes play a role in anticipating climate change processes. One option is the construction of islands and mangrove forests off the coast as protection against wave action and rising sea levels. Another example is the so-called ‘Sand Motor’ along the Dutch coast. It is an artificial peninsula that makes wind and currents move sand towards the coast and enlarges the dunes. This dynamic fortifies the coast while creating room for new nature and recreation areas.

Planetary boundaries
Human activity has caused nine planetary boundaries to be compromised, which could lead to non-linear, abrupt environmental degradation on a continental or planetary scale. Biodiversity loss is one such boundary; a mass extinction of species is underway. Other planetary boundaries are threatened by global warming, water scarcity, chemical pollution and land use. These are also causes of biodiversity loss. Climate change leads to stress affecting ecosystems and species. In Germany, the bark beetle threatens softwood forests due to a combination of desiccation and acidification caused by nitrogen deposition.