Science - September 25, 2009

'Not enough protection for hundreds of nature reserves'

Nature management professor Berendse criticizes Natura-2000 list. Big increase in number of species in Bennekom Hooilanden area.

Fen violet in the Bennekom Hooilanden area
There are not enough areas on the current Natura-2000 list. As a result, much of the nature in the Netherlands is not getting proper protection, in the opinion of the Wageningen professor for nature management, Frank Berendse. He said this on Tuesday in Renkum during the presentation of a report on the biodiversity of two nature reserves: the Bennekom Hooilanden and the Bennekom Meent areas. The Hooilanden, 28 hectares in the Binnenveld area close to Wageningen, is not a Natura-2000 area.
The biodiversity of the recently created nature reserve, run by the Dutch forestry commission Stadsbosbeheer, is considered by those in the know to be exceptional. Its biodiversity can match that of the neighbouring Bennekom Meent, which is part of the Natura-2000 network. These conclusions come from surveys by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Natuurhistorische Vereniging (KNNV), the Dutch natural history society. 
Blue moor-grass site
The high level of biodiversity is a recent development. Most of the Hooilanden was extensively dug up three years ago. The aim was to develop a new blue moor-grass site. There are only 30 hectares of this rare grassland in the Netherlands, and a quarter of that is in the Bennekom Meent. But those seven hectares are too few to guarantee its continued existence in the long term, according to Prof. Berendse. 'Nature reserves need to be on a sufficient scale. Otherwise it is virtually impossible to protect them from external influences.  At the moment the Bennekom Meent is a tiny island surrounded by intensively farmed agricultural land. That is why it is so important to add the Bennekom Hooilanden to the Natura-2000 list.' He feels this example epitomizes policy. 'Hundreds of important nature reserves are receiving insufficient protection.'
As of this week, the draft resolution designating the Bennekom Meent a Natura-2000 area is available for inspection. The nature and environmental organisations in the region are arguing that the Bennekom Hooilanden should be given the status of Natura-2000 area as well.
 The number of species of plants and mosses has doubled since the Hooilanden was dug up. The experts have been particularly surprised by the rapid return of the fen violet on a huge scale. 'It hadn't been seen for more than 50 years,' says Douwe van Dam, who coordinated the KNNV's survey.

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