The Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for nature and biodiversity, while the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment is responsible for environmental issues. On 1 January 2017, a new Nature law went into effect, which replaces three previous laws: the Nature conservation law, the Flora and fauna law and the Forestry law. Responsibility for nature restoration and management lies with the provinces, except for large waters and international policy.

  • The National Nature Network (NNN, Natuurnetwerk Nederland, previously Ecologische Hoofdstructuur) represents existing nature area and area that needs to be restored. The network is designed to link nature areas more effectively with each other and with surrounding rural area. The main goals of an ecological network in the Netherlands are to maintain Natura 2000 area and to safeguard survival of species protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives. NNN encompasses existing nature conservation areas (including the 20 national parks); areas where nature is being restored; agricultural land under nature-friendly management; all large waters (lakes, rivers, coastal zone of the North Sea and Wadden Sea), and all Natura 2000 areas (Rijksoverheid, n.d.). Ultimately, the NNN should be connected to nature areas in other European countries through a European network (Rijksoverheid, n.d.). The provincial authorities are responsible for the National Nature Network. Between 2011 and 1 January 2017, 32,350 ha of nature area were included within the NNN, which is 42% of the agreed total nature area to be realised before 2027 (IPO, 2017, concept Voortgangsrapportage Natuur over 2016). Nature within the NNN that is not part of Natura 2000 is protected from activities that have a large impact on the main features of the area unless there is a ‘large societal interest’ and there are no realistic alternatives (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2012). The multifunctional character of nature areas within the NNN is acknowledged and attention is paid to also contribute to different policy goals such as water safety, recreation and maintenance of cultural-historical values of landscapes (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2012). Whilst the Netherlands were one of the frontrunners in developing its National Ecological Network in the years following its design phase in the 1990s, the subsequent budget and resource cuts at national level have limited the functionality of the national ecological network for biodiversity protection and its capacity to deliver multiple ecosystem services to citizens (European Commission, 2017).
  • The Multiannual Programme Defragmentation (Meerjarenprogramma Ontsnippering, MJPO) is a national programme in which the national government, ProRail (responsible for the railway system) and provinces work together to resolve ecological bottlenecks, often in dialogue with municipalities, regional water authorities and nature conservation organisations. Bottlenecks are resolved by creating e.g. wildlife passages or tunnels (MJPO, n.d.).
  • The National Nature Vision 2014 (Natuurlijk verder – Rijksnatuurvisie 2014) is a strategic document which is meant to guide nature policy towards national and international long term goals. It recognises that only assigning areas to the NNN is not enough to reach biodiversity targets, therefore ‘nature combinations’ need to be formed: a combination of nature with agriculture, private estates, recreation, water extraction, cities, business areas, water ways, etc. Especially for agriculture there is a big task to become more ‘nature inclusive’ (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2014).
  • The Nature Ambition Great Waters 2050 and further (Natuurambitite Grote Wateren 2050 en verder) comes forth from the National Nature Vision 2014 and formulates the vision for the great national waters. An emphasis is placed on restoring natural and dynamic processes within Dutch river basins. This way, healthy habitats can be provided for different species and humans can enjoy the areas for recreation. The vision is to optimise ecosystem services; from biodiversity to safety, from recreation and housing to economic development (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2016).
  • The Delta Programme (Deltaprogramma) has the aim of protecting the Netherlands against floods, safeguarding fresh water and spatially adapting to climate change. Often these aims can be combined with nature development, mainly by giving room to rivers (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu and Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2017).
  • As part of the Delta Programme, climate adaptation is promoted. The National Climate Adaptation Strategy 2016 mentions the importance of different building blocks of GI and connecting nature (although not named GI) for climate adaptation and integration of GI in other sectors. An implementation programme will be drafted in 2017, which will be coherent with the Delta Programme (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2016).
  • The Room for the River Programme (Ruimte voor de rivier) uses technical and natural solutions to accommodate increasing water levels and flows. It aims for safe river basins and improving the quality of the immediate surroundings (Ruimte voor de Rivier, n.d.).
  • The Netherlands formulated the basis of their Restoration Prioritisation Framework in 2014 (Naar een strategisch kader voor ecosysteemherstel ('RPF') in Nederland (2014)), as required by the EU Biodiversity Strategy, Target 2 (action 6a). The RPF is based on four layers: NNN, Natura 2000, large projects from the Nature Ambition Great Waters, and local and regional projects from selected programmes. The framework needs to be developed further to be operational.
  • The Implementation Agenda Natural Capital: maintenance and sustainable use of biodiversity (Uitvoeringsagenda Natuurlijk Kapitaal: behoud en duurzaam gebruik van biodiversiteit, 2013) includes 16 action points, of which two are directly relevant for GI: restore degraded (marine/terrestrial) ecosystems and balance biodiversity and food production (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2013). In the design of national infrastructure projects, green infrastructure will be considered.
  • Life: Alde Feanen N2000 - Booming business: wetland restoration in the marshes of Natura 2000 Alde Feanen (09/2013 – 11/2019) – Restoration of a large area of water reed beds, floating fens, and preservation of an important area of fen meadows, among others (LIFE Project Database, n.d.). 
  • Amsterdam Dune project - 'Amsterdam Dunes - source for nature', dune habitat restoration project (06/2012 – 12/2016) - restore and improve the characteristic and priority habitat types of the AWD that are part of the “Kennemerland Zuid” Natura 2000 site (LIFE Project Database, n.d.).
  • The restoration of the water retention capacity of floodplain ecosystems in the Room for the River programme (Ruimte voor de rivier).
  • The Sand Motor (de Zandmotor): The Sand Motor on the Delfland Coast was created in 2011 as a peninsula covering 128 hectares. Natural processes, like wind and currents, are redistributing the sand gradually along the shoreface, beach and dunes. It is an innovative pilot project for coastline management intended to contribute to coastal protection in the long term. The intention was also to create an additional appealing area for nature and leisure activities on the Delfland Coast and to boost current knowledge about coastline management (De Zandmotor, n.d.).
  • Marker Wadden: the Markermeer is now cut off from the North Sea and rivers by dams, dikes and reclaimed land. In order to restore natural processes and create habitat for fish and bird populations, islands, marshes and mud flats will be created. The Dutch Society for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten) and the Department of Public Works of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (Rijkswaterstaat) will implement the first phase of the project, amounting to EUR 75 million, in cooperation with business and non-profit organisations. The first part of the nature island (1 km2) should be realised in summer 2018. The overall aim is the restoration of up to 100 km2.
  • Amsterdam, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Nijmegen have been among the finalists of the European Green Capital Award, and Nijmegen is the winner of the 2018 Green Capital Award.
  • The project ‘Temporary Nature’ (Tijdelijke Natuur) enables temporary nature to emerge on wasteland areas. Before a building project is realised, there is often a period in which the area is not used. Normally, when protected species establish themselves on this area, the project developer has to compensate this new habitat when the building project is executed in this area. In order to prevent this, project developers prevent nature from developing on these temporary wastelands. The project Temporary Nature made a ‘Green Deal’ with the national government to enable project developers to get an exemption of the Flora and Fauna law - therefore making it unnecessary for project developers to try and keep out protected species from a temporary wasteland. This way, a temporary habitat can be created or naturally emerge on temporary wastelands (Tijdelijke natuur, n.d.).
  • “Het Pad” (“The Path”) is a walking route along nature with optional guidance/mentoring to promote mental health. The project aims to increase scientific knowledge about the effectiveness of the route, so that it can be included in health care and ultimately in health insurance (Het Pad, n.d.).
  • Eindhoven participates in the Horizon 2020 project Urban Nature Labs (UNaLab) which aims to develop a robust evidence base and European framework of innovative, replicable, and locally-attuned nature-based solutions (NBS) to enhance the climate and water resilience of cities. UNaLab focuses on urban ecological water management, accompanied with greening measures and innovative and inclusive urban design.





The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. By early 2016, 13.29% of the national land area of the Netherlands was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 11.48% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 7.55 % (EU average 13.8%). The Natura 2000 sites are being complemented by national network nature areas. The process for the designation of the sites as special areas of conservation is almost complete and the establishment of management plans for all sites is making good progress (European Commission, 2017).


Next to the greening measures defined in the Common Agriculture Policy, the Netherlands has subsidies available for nature management by farmers and private land owners whose land is publicly accessible. These areas should provide the ‘throughflow’ of species to and from the NNN. Since 2016, only collectives of farmers can apply for subsidy, which is granted for areas seen as having most opportunity for increasing natural values. Provinces determine ambitions and goals, which are described in their provincial nature management plans (Groene Ruimte, 2015).

Spatial planning

The NNN is protected by spatial planning regimes in province regulations and assigned as a national priority in the Structure Vision on Infrastructure and Planning. Also some landscapes, assigned as world heritage areas, are protected by national and province spatial planning regimes (SVIR, Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte).  New spatial developments that affect the NNN must be compensated or mitigated. New spatial developments should alse take into account effects on the water system and the environment (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2012). In the latest vision for spatial planning, ´building with nature´ is mentioned as a way to create nature value within other tasks (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2017).

Water management, marine and coastal protection

Green Infrastructure is well-mainstreamed into water management in the Netherlands; possibilities to increase nature values are considered when planning and implementing water management measures (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu and Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2015). Thereby there is a focus on natural processes instead of specific habitats or species. In the previoulys mentioned Room for the River Programme, water management of rivers is combined with natureAnother good example is the use of natural processes to spread sand from sand nourishment at the sea front (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu and Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 2015). The vision for the North Sea aims for multifunctional use of land and sea and building with nature. Natura 2000 areas and the marine ecosystem in general need to be protected, but no expansion of protected areas is planned.  

Transport and energy infrastructure

With the Green Deal Infranature, (http://www.greendeals.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/GD196-Infranatuur.pdf)  national and local authorities, businesses and NGOs are working together to incorporate nature into infrastructure (highways, railways, waterways).


Subsidies are available for nature- and landscape management for agricultural collectives. Information from 2015 suggests that there is a 30 million euro budget from the provinces with co-financing from the European Union of 30 million (Groene Ruimte, 2015a).

Since nature management was decentralised, provinces are responsible for financing nature restoration and management. Information from 2015 suggests that, in addition to the national budget of 350 million euro per year that is added to the provincial budgets, the provinces allocate an extra budget of around 65 million euro per year to nature (Groene Ruimte, 2015b).

The Dutch government aims to involve citizens, businesses and organisations in financing of nature projects. A large part of the financing instruments is aimed at multifunctional projects, such as nature combined with recreation or building with nature projects (van den Burg et al. 2016).

The National Green Fund (Nationaal Groenfonds) finances projects that improve the quality of the natural environment, e.g. by investing in climate adaptation measures and green space in the city, financing the purchase of land or nature development by land owners (Nationaal Groenfonds, n.d.).

With Green Deals, the national government supports businesses, civil society or other governmental bodies when they need help with a sustainable project. This help can be in the form of adjusting legislation, acting as a mediator or to tap into new markets, for example abroad (Rijksoverheid, n.d.).

The first nature island (300 ha) of the Marker Wadden is being realised with 50 million euro from the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten), the National Lottery (Nationale Postcode Loterij), the national government and the province Flevoland. To create the total 800 ha, 75 million euro is required and was raised by public and private contributions, from the national and provincial government, nature organisations and businesses (Natuurmonumenten, n.d.).

Room for the River projects (with an estimated total of 143,7 million euro for 2016) were financed in 2016 from specific funds (58%), real estate (31%), the yearly contribution from the government (agentschapsbijdrage) (6%) and EU subsidies (4.5%) (Rijkswaterstaat, 2016).


5.1  Best practice/points of excellence

The Netherlands excels at water-related projects and nature restoration (on former agricultural lands). Examples include projects such as the Sand Motor and the Marker Wadden (described above) and the transformation of 80,000 hectares of agricultural lands which are subsequently included in the NNN. These nature restoration projects often include the removal of the nutrient rich soil and raising water level.

5.2  Challenges/gaps/needs

The main challenges for Green infrastructure in the Netherlands are the great amount of infrastructural elements e.g. highways, shipping canals, railways etc. and next to this the ecological barriers formed by highly intensive agricultural areas.

5.3  Opportunities

Forty agricultural collectives have united through BoerenNatuur.nl (FarmersNature) and urge in their position paper for a systemic change within agriculture, more ambition/effort and clearer definitions and regulation for ´nature inclusive´ farming. Two of the four elements of nature inclusive farming are promoting (wild) flora and fauna on agricultural land and landscape features that favour biodiversity (BoerenNatuur, 2017).

5.4  Benefits

Several TEEB studies have been carried out to assess the economic benefits of biodiversity and nature projects in the Netherlands. There have been five studies so far, covering health and productivity benefits, benefits for businesses, urban benefits, benefits of Bonaire’s nature and benefits of integrated projects (Biodiversiteit.nl, n.d.).

Jongeneel et al. (2005) analysed the financial and economic costs and benefits of the National Ecological Network for the government (excluding non-market benefits) using three scenarios, each using a different estimate of the area of land that will be purchased by the government compared to the extent to which management agreements will be used to achieve the nature conservation objectives. Assuming that the existing applicable policy was implemented, the total net discounted economic costs of the National Ecological Network were calculated at €3.798 billion, equivalent to €795/ha/year. Kuik et al. (2006) estimated the benefits provided by Natura 2000 in the Netherlands to be around €4,000/ha/year, calculated as an average of €/ha/year benefits from different key Natura 2000 ecosystems. Recreation and tourism as well as wider ecosystem functions were important components of this value, as well as non-use benefits. The provisioning service of raw materials was of lesser importance in the Netherlands. The authors extrapolated the gross welfare benefits of all Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands (1.1 million ha), deriving an estimate of around €4.5 billion/year.



  • The Netherlands is developing an Atlas of Natural Capital (ANK) in the context of the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) (PBL, 2016).
  • All ecological data on the NNN - based on field observations by professionals and by volunteers - are collected, stored, and collectively managed by an organisation - the National Database on Flora and Fauna – that is funded by the 12 provinces and the department for Nature and Biodiversity (Ministry of Economic Affairs).
  • Data on nature-management plans, on the habitat types in the provincial nature-management plans and on realization of the 80,000 extra hectares are gathered and administered by another organisation (BIJ12) that is funded and directed by the 12 provinces collectively.
  • Within the public-private Building with Nature innovation programme, contractors, engineering companies, research institutions, governments and NGOs work together to develop and spread knowledge about Building with Nature. Based on the research and pilot projects, a guideline was developed (Deltares, n.d.).
  • The Hague and Utrecht will participate in the EnRoute project (Enhancing Resilience Of Urban Ecosystems through Green Infrastructure) implemented in framework of MAES, which runs from 2017 until 2018. The project aims to introduce the MAES approach into the local policy arena, connecting the governance levels horizontally and vertically, with a view to contributing to the further deployment of GI in cities and in urban contexts. In the “city labs”, the URBAN-MAES framework will be implemented using local data and involving in the process the local stakeholders and focusing on specific issues (Maes et al. 2017).
  • The national government invests EUR 1.4 million in satellite data (soil, atmosphere, crop development) for precision agriculture. Specialists translate the data into advice for farmers to support more sustainable and efficient production. Data and advice is made publicly available online (Rijksoverheid, 2017).
  • The website www.groenblauwenetwerken.com includes knowledge, examples and tools for climate adaptation in the city, specifically by creating green-blue urban networks.
  • The website www.vitalegroenestad.nl informs and tries to raise awareness of governments, organisations and businesses that are involved in planning and development of urban areas about effective application of green space, for example to mitigate air and water pollution, improve the quality of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, increase attractiveness of urban area and for sustainable economic development.
  • TEEB-city tool (TEEB-stad) enables the calculation of benefits of selected measures in euros for health, energy use, value of houses, recreation and leisure, social cohesion and water management:  http://www.teebstad.nl/verder-met-teebstad/.
  • Several TEEB-studies have been conducted, whose results can be found here: http://www.biodiversiteit.nl/teeb.
  • Links to websites with relevant information and examples of natural capital and ecosystem services: http://www.rwsleefomgeving.nl/onderwerpen/bodem-ondergrond/natuurlijk-kapitaal/links/.





Biodiversiteit.nl (n.d.). TEEB: Economie van Ecosystemen en Biodiversiteit. Accessed 7 April 2017: http://www.biodiversiteit.nl/teeb

BoerenNatuur (2017). Position paper. Natuurinclusieve landbouw: heldere definitie en meer inzet nodig. http://portal.scan-ict.nl/system/files/documenten/nieuws/position_paper_natuurinclusieve_landbouw_2017.pdf

Deltares (n.d.). Building with Nature. Accessed 7 April 2017: https://publicwiki.deltares.nl/display/BWN1/Building+with+Nature

De Zandmotor (n.d.). Introduction. Accessed 7 April 2017: http://www.dezandmotor.nl/en/the-sand-motor/introduction/

European Commission (2013). Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. {SWD(2013) 155 final}. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:d41348f2-01d5-4abe-b817-4c73e6f1b2df.0014.03/DOC_1&format=PDF

European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – THE NETHERLANDS. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_nl_en.pdf

Groene Ruimte (2015a). Agrarisch Natuurbeheer. Accessed 7 April 2017: https://www.groeneruimte.nl/dossiers/agrarisch_natuurbeheer/home.html

Groene Ruimte (2015b). Dossier EHS/Natuurnetwerk Nederland. Accessed 7 April 2017: https://www.groeneruimte.nl/dossiers/ehs/home.html#kosten

Het Pad (n.d.). Het Pad.nu. Accessed 7 Aprill 2017: http://www.hetpad.nu/

IPO (2017). Tweede Voortgangsrapportage Natuur. http://www.ipo.nl/index.php/download_file/force/4192/129/

Jongeneel, R., L.H.G. Slangen, E.J. Bos, M.J. Koning, T. Ponsioen and J. Vader (2005). De doorwerking van natuurprojecten op de economie: financiële en economische analyse van kosten en baten. Wageningen University, Wageningen.

Kuik, O., L. Brander and M. Schaafsma (2006). Globale batenraming van Natura 2000 gebieden. Instituut voor Milieuvraagstukken, Amsterdam.

LIFE Project Database (n.d.). Amsterdam Dune project - 'Amsterdam Dunes - source for nature', dune habitat restoration project. Accessed 29 November 2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=4273

LIFE Project Database (n.d.). Life: Alde Feanen N2000 - Booming business: wetland restoration in the marshes of Natura 2000 Alde Feanen. Accessed 29 November 2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=4739

Maes, J., G. Zulian and M. Thijssen (2017). Inception report: EnROUTE. Final draft version (10 February 2017). Unpublished document.

Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2013). Uitvoeringsagenda Natuurlijk Kapitaal: behoud en duurzaam gebruik van biodiversiteit. Kamerbrief aan de Voorzitter van de Tweede Kamer, 22 juni 2013.

Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2014). Natuurlijk verder. Rijksnatuurvisie 2014. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/rapporten/2014/04/01/rijksnatuurvisie-2014

Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2016). Natuurambitie Grote Wateren 2050 en verder. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/rapporten/2016/01/19/natuurambitie-grote-wateren-2050-en-verder/natuurambitie-grote-wateren-2050-en-verder.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu (2016). Nationale klimaatadaptatie-strategie 2016.: https://ruimtelijkeadaptatie.nl/publish/pages/114403/nas_screen_dec_1_dec_2016.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu (2012). Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte.:  https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/rapporten/2012/03/13/structuurvisie-infrastructuur-en-ruimte/structuurvisie-infrastructuur-en-ruimte-4.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu (2017). De opgaven voor de Nationale Omgevingsvisie. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/beleidsnotas/2017/02/17/de-opgaven-voor-de-nationale-omgevingsvisie/IenM+Nationale+Omgevingsagenda.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu and Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2015). Nationaal Waterplan 2016-2021. https://www.helpdeskwater.nl/publish/pages/35958/nwp_2016-2021.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu and Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2017). Deltaprogramma 2017. https://deltaprogramma2017.deltacommissaris.nl/viewer/publication/1/1-deltaprogramma-

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PBL (2016). Natuurlijk Kapitaal: naar waarde geschat. http://themasites.pbl.nl/natuurlijk-kapitaal-nederland/wp-content/uploads/2014/PBL_2016_Natuurlijk-kapitaal_1455.pdf

Rijksoverheid (n.d.). Natuurnetwerk Nederland. Accesses 24 March 2017: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/natuur-en-biodiversiteit/inhoud/natuurnetwerk-nederland

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