Wetenschap - 21 april 2011

'Nature reserves losing part of their protection'

Alterra points to a possible gap in the protection of 64 areas of natural beauty. There is not sufficient protection in place to deal with the negative impact of developments in the surrounding area.

According to State Secretary Bleker, protected nature reserves are no longer needed now that Natura-2000 has been introduced. He therefore wants to abolish their special status. But research by Alterra suggests that might not be a good plan for some of those areas. More specifically, this is the case for 64 of the 189 areas designated 'Protected Nature Reserve' between 1970 and 2000, covering a total of 3,422 hectares.
In a study commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Mirjam Broekmeyer (Alterra) investigated the values of the 64 areas and the consequences of abolishing their protected status as nature reserves. That status has been made more or less irrelevant with the introduction of Natura-2000 and the Ecological Main Structure. Two out of three nature reserves are in Natura-2000 areas. The rest are part of the Ecological Main Structure (with the exception of one or two small areas). And that is where the problem lies. According to Broekmeyer, the Ecological Main Structure only provides protection against direct spatial interventions in the area itself but not against changes in water consumption or nitrogen levels, for example, in the immediate vicinity.
First close the gap
There are, however, proper arrangements for protection against such external factors in the status of Protected Nature Reserve. Broekmeyer says the protection gap could be closed through additional policy at the provincial level. 'For example, through a provincial spatial bye-law or by designating it a protected area within the framework of the Flora and Fauna Act. But will the provinces do that? There is a chance we will end up with twelve different systems.'
Broekmeyer is therefore urging further consideration before scrapping the status of nature reserve. 'First, it should be clear what the consequences are for the nature values. There are some very unusual areas and it is not difficult to make a good case for conserving them. Many of the areas are of significance for the objectives in the Habitats Directive and contribute to international biodiversity.'
The parliamentary committee is discussing the protected nature reserves this week.

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