The number of plant and animal species has declined dramatically since 1900. More than half have gone extinct as the result of urbanisation, environmental pollution and over-exploitation through fishing or hunting.
Biodiversity (the variety of life forms on earth) is essential for human life. The Netherlands supports international agreements to halt the loss of biodiversity by protecting nature reserves and combat the illegal trade in exotic plant and animal species.
Dutch biodiversity policy
Dutch biodiversity policy is based on international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Dutch policy aims to:
- protect animals, plants and their habitats,
- ensure natural resources are used wisely, for instance by using water economically,
- promote a fair distribution of revenues also in the international context.
The Dutch government also wishes to:
- link nature and biodiversity according to their role in the economy;
- ensure there are sufficient raw materials and natural resources for the economy.
Protecting plants, animals and their habitats
The Netherlands supports more than 3000 plant and animal species (including insects) that are vulnerable or in danger of disappearing. The government has drawn up legislation to prevent this. The most important legislation is the Flora and Fauna Act and the Nature Conservation Act 1998.
The government also protects entire habitats, in nature reserves for instance, that are part of Natura 2000 or the National Ecological Network. In this way several groups of species come under a single protection regime. Detailed information can be found at the species register.
Exotic animals and plants
Exotic plants or animals with an explosive reproduction rate may pose a danger to native species and affect biodiversity. Examples include Comb Jelly, Marsh pennywort and the Old House borer. These invasive species might outcompete, eat, infect or hybridise with native species and so alter an entire ecosystem. Under the Flora and Fauna Act the trade or possession of specific native species is banned. The Act also bans the introduction of pets or zoo animals into the wild.
Reintroduction of animals and plants
Sometimes species that had disappeared from an area are reintroduced, for example beavers or otters. The government has also created a gene bank which helps preserve genetic material. It contains the original varieties of fifty native tree and shrub species. The gene bank allows us to grow new trees and shrubs. Characteristic species can thus be reintroduced to our landscapes.
The Netherlands is a signatory to several international agreements, including:
- the Convention on Biological Diversity;
- the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora;
- the Ramsar convention on wetlands;
- the International Tropical Timber Organization;
- the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling;
- the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats);
- the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
The commitments arising from these conventions have been transposed into national regulations and are part of Dutch nature and biodiversity policy.