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Dutch nature is fragmented: protected Natura2000 areas and pieces of forest or grassland, heath or marsh, enclosed in between residential areas and intensive agriculture. This fragmentation prevents animals from moving freely and plants from growing in places where they would naturally do so. As a result, plant and animal species are becoming less and less common in these areas because they can no longer reproduce properly, and eventually die out locally. This is serious, because biodiversity is fundamental to, for example, our food, clean air and good soil quality. Moreover, poor soil quality and intensive agriculture lead to decreased water retention in the soil during heavy rainfall, causing floods, such as in 2021 in South Limburg.
We thought: this can be done differently, and came up with a possible solution. In the hills of South Limburg, we are restoring and improving small connecting zones between nature areas, turning individual pieces of nature into large-scale nature areas. These can, for example, be roadsides, hedges or grafts (planted steep edges in the landscape), which act as stepping stones for various plants and animals. We do not do this on our own: we work together with various local parties, such as municipalities, water boards, farmers, private individuals and nature organisations. And with success: our first steps in the area have already led to the return of the wood bumblebee, a species that has not been seen in The Netherlands for several decades!
Don't forget to watch the video at the top of this page where the researchers tell you more about the project.
The calcareous soil of the hills shows the effect of the initiatives relatively quickly, making it a good starting point to see which measures work. Ultimately, we hope to be able to apply the same approach in many more areas in the Netherlands.
Moreover, many species live in the hills that are not or hardly found anywhere else in the Netherlands! Therefore, this is an important area to protect.
Taking all these measures costs money. Because we focus on 'empty' pieces of land, such as roadsides, there is often no government subsidy for this.
Will you help us realize the next small connection and create a large nature reserve, giving special species in South Limburg another chance?
Our next connection zone will probably be on top of the Keutenberg. This mountain is probably no stranger to cycling fans: the Amstel Gold Race runs over it every year. We are allowed to create a biodiverse strip along the edge of a field, which we will then monitor to see which plant and animal species return there and what the changes are in the soil quality. And you can help us make this happen! It would be great if the project could serve as an example and booster for the rest of The Netherlands.
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