Room for nature?

19/01/2004 10:00

In spite of urbanisation, the area of countryside in the Netherlands is increasing. Between 1996 and 2000 the wooded area increased by 60 km2, although the area of natural environment diminished by 10 km2.

More woods

There were more than 3.5 thousand km2 of woods in the Netherlands in 2000. Some 100 km2 of wooded area has been planted since 1996, the equivalent of the area of the city of The Hague. Naturally, wooded areas have also disappeared: about 40 km2 has a different use. The total wooded area has thus increased by 60 km2 net.

Farmland in particular forested

Farmland accounted for more than 60 percent of new woods. An important factor in this respect is the European subsidy for planting fast-growing timber on fallow farmland. One quarter of new wooded areas used to be areas of natural environment, and 5 percent consisted of trees planted in traffic-intensive areas, such as near motorways.

Previous land use of new wooded areas, 2000

Slightly less natural environment

The area of natural environment in the Netherlands diminished slightly in 2000, to 1.3 thousand km2. There was 44 km2 of new natural environment, but 54 km2 was re-allocated. Half of the new area used to be water. Newly formed coastal areas and the development of sandbars and tidal marshes in the Wadden Sea provided 37 percent of new area of natural environment.

Previous land use of new natural environment, 2000

Nineteen percent of new natural environment came from land left fallow by farmers, and 18 percent used to be wooded.

Most new woods in Gelderland

The developments in countryside differed between provinces. In Gelderland and Drenthe the areas of woods increased by more than 10 km2, clearly at the expense of the area of natural environment. The Veluwe area is beginning to become the wooden heart of the Netherlands.

Countryside development by province, 1996-2000

Areas of natural environment in the province of Groningen hardly grew into wooded areas at all. The increase in the area of natural environment in Friesland and North Holland demonstrated the changing coastal formation and the dynamics of the Wadden Sea.

Area of countryside per inhabitant, 2000

Woods and countryside for everyone?

There is relatively little countryside in the west of the country in particular. Inhabitants of South Holland have only a meagre 60 m2 each, less than half a tennis court. In Drenthe the population had more than 900 m2 per person at their disposal.

Hans Visser

Source: StatLine (Dutch only)