The area of forest and open nature has increased slightly, but its share in the total land area is among the lowest in the EU. The average change of forest and open nature has been 0.5 percent per year between 2000 and 2012, an average increase of 25 km2 per year. The area of forest decreased slightly between 2010 and 2012, whereas the smaller wetland area increased substantially. Other components of open nature, namely heathland and dunes, remain relatively stable in area.
The Netherlands is a very densely populated country and space is very scarce. The competition between different uses of this space is an environmental problem. Built-up areas are important for living and working. These areas are using up more and more space and it is mostly agricultural land that is being developed. Alongside the on-going transition of agricultural areas into built-up areas, new areas for forest or open nature are also being established. They are used for recreation and nature conservation and can also serve as water inundation areas in case of high water levels.
Forest and open nature covered 14.6 percent of the land area in 2012.
Government policy aims to protect and improve the quality of nature, among other things by allocating space and implementing plans for Natura 2000 areas. By linking existing and planned natural areas for the national ecological network of protected areas, agricultural land has also been converted into nature and forest across the country.
Forest are decreased slightly between 2010 and 2012. Forest planted with EU subsidies from 1996 has grown and is now being cut for wood production. The increase in the total area of forest and open nature in recent years has been totally accounted for by an increase in open nature, such as wetlands and marshlands. The area of heathland and dunes has remained.
International comparison is based on the share of forests in total land area. The Netherlands has one of the lowest shares of forest areain the EU and the OECD. The Netherlands has historically always been a relatively densely populated country with a lot of agricultural land. The lower delta location of the Netherlands has a significant influence on the landscape and also shapes internationally recognized wetlands with important natural systems. A low ranking based on an indicator reflecting share of forest area does not take into account valuable nature areas such as wetlands in a small number of countries.