Science - December 10, 2015

‘Agricultural nature management will be less fragmented’

Text:
Roelof Kleis

The new agricultural nature management system will come into effect on 1 January. Will this save our meadow birds? Hens Runhaar, the new professor of the Management of Biodiversity and Agrarian Landscapes, is cautiously optimistic.

What does the new setup for agricultural nature management involve?

‘The Ministry of Economic Affairs was a key player in the old system. Farmers made individual agreements to take measures for pastureland and arable land. The new system focuses on core areas for farmland birds that are of real ecological significance. Groups consisting mainly of farmers will draw up proposals on how to meet the provincial management objectives and will be responsible for monitoring and enforcement. The sector itself will be made responsible. The idea is that this will increase commitment, support and the effort people put in. Of course we’ll have to see how that works out.’

Are we giving up on birds outside the core areas?

‘Not at all. There are many initiatives by farmers, volunteers, NGOs and businesses to protect farmland birds. But the money for agricultural nature management will only go to the core areas.’

Did the old agricultural nature management system fail?

‘That is oversimplifying things. There has been a lot of criticism. And criticism of that criticism. It is a politically sensitive issue. The new system is aimed at enhancing the effectiveness. The effort will be less fragmented because you are working with groups and focusing on core areas.’

Can this work?

‘They have deliberately made changes that can improve effectiveness. It is still too early to say whether that will work.’

The godwit has become our national bird. Do you agree with that?

The godwit is a yardstick. If the godwit is doing well, then so are the other farmland birds. In addition to this ecological value, the godwit also has great symbolic and emotional value for many people. The godwit is characteristic for our landscape and the vast majority of godwits in Europe breed in the Netherlands. I can understand why people voted for the godwit and why they had that poll now.’