April 20, 13:40
The basic quality is sufficient in more than half of the experiment area
Written by Bernard Harvesterkamp
WINTERSWIJK – In 2021, a basic pilot landscape for quality and biodiversity was carried out in the municipalities of Aalten, Ost Gelry and Winterswijk. A test area was selected for this purpose around the point where the three municipalities adjoin each other. The results of the experiment will lead to the determination of the basic quality of the entire territory of the three municipalities in 2022.
The inventory was conducted by Robert Kwak and Anton Sturtilder, nationally renowned naturalists who live in the area. They’ve been arguing for years to start with basic quality. Forests and nature reserves are important not only for flora and fauna, but also small landscape elements, fields and meadows. They see basic quality mapping as a guide for municipalities, but also for agriculture and others, such as land management organizations and landlords. In cooperation with the municipalities, they can then prepare projects in which the basic quality can be improved. In the follow-up study report, they will indicate the concrete options available. Early in 2019, Stortelder and Kwak were commissioned by County Gelderland to provide a global overview of the entire Achterhoek’s core quality. The county then invited the municipalities of Achterhoek to closely examine this quality for each municipality.
Various standards are used to judge the quality
Various criteria were used to determine baseline quality. First of all, it is important to determine the type of landscape in which the territory is located. There are four types of landscapes in the experimental area: upland swamp landscape, old farmland landscape (also called ancient reclamation landscape), arctic and hollow reclamation, and weed and peat reclamation (also called small reclamation landscape). Each type of landscape contains the elements of nature and landscape that are characteristic of those types. This also includes distinctive plants and animals. The researchers examined to what extent they still exist. The surface area of these landscape elements and the suitability of land use were also examined. For example, tall globular ash trees were all fields, but now they are often lawns or make space for tree nurseries. The accessibility of the landscape was also assessed: how attractive is it to cyclists and pedestrians or residents and how many roads and paths are there? Finally, the integration of farmland landscapes with associated barns and other works in the countryside was examined.
Distinctive landscape elements are often absent in small reclamations
The inventory shows that the quality of the underlying landscape is good in more than half of the experiment area. In a small part it is bad and in the rest it is moderate. Basic quality is best in landscaping of old hooves. This has to do with the traditionally greater diversity in this landscape. An increase in the scale and intensification of agriculture also occurred, but enough of the ancient cultural landscape has been preserved. Basic landscaping quality is modest in most of the lower, heath and peat reclamation areas. Many characteristic landscape elements often disappear, so that the type of landscape is difficult to recognize anymore. When assessing the basic quality of biodiversity, the occurrence of rare plants and animals, but the most common species, was not considered. They should be everywhere. In addition, a few species were selected, which impose slightly more requirements on the site in which they occur, and which can be considered characteristic of the landscape type.
The bar is not set too high
The criterion was not high in the evaluation. The quality of the base plants was good if at least five common species were present. If only a few common species and at least three rare species occur, the basic quality of biodiversity is also good. Figures were also identified in a similar way for birds, butterflies, reptiles, and amphibians. The inventories that were made during the last ten years have been used. The biodiversity map image is consistent with the landscape assessment. This, say the authors of the report, is not surprising. “Where landscape elements are present, (to some extent) common organisms can survive. Landscape condition sets the conditions for wild plants and animals to establish themselves. It creates the preconditions. Enhancing biodiversity means improving these preconditions.” There are also differences. In intertidal areas and young reclamation areas, the basic quality of biodiversity is regularly worse than that of the landscape.
Reporting is not criticism, but encouragement
Kwak and Sturtilder emphatically emphasize that their reports are not a criticism of the development of the agricultural sector. They realize that farmers had to choose economies of scale. So basic quality can only be improved if farmers are willing to cooperate. This means that the measures must be funded by subsidies. Or that agricultural companies get better wages for the products they supply. There was a sounding board group for the pilot, which included farmers, residents, representatives of the nature sector and the three municipalities. The agricultural sector expressed concerns that the inventory could lead to commitments. The municipalities have indicated that this is not the intention. They do not want and will not oblige landowners to improve the basic quality of their property. They also stressed the importance of cooperation between all stakeholders in the countryside in order to start successfully.