The value of small landscape elements is increasingly being demonstrated

The value of small landscape elements is increasingly being demonstrated

Small landscape elements contribute to improving the quality of life and economy in the countryside. To increase knowledge on this topic, a knowledge network will be created in Utrecht, bringing together landowners, entrepreneurs, volunteers and experts.

© Knowledge Network Small Landscape Elements

There are great landscapes in Utrecht. The eastern part of the province is a forest area. From Gooi, via Utrechtse Heuvelrug to Grebbeberg, there are forest landscapes and agricultural areas. The area in the western part is rich in water with a peat meadow area extending from Finkeveen to the Lübekerwaard river country.

Within these large landscapes, small landscape elements are of great importance, says project leader Hein Passmann from Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht. Maintaining, enhancing and expanding hedgerows, ponds, ditches, banks, green areas and flower edgings enhances the landscape, he says. According to him, the integration and enrichment of those green and blue elements requires first and foremost knowledge.


“More than half of the landscapes in the province of Utrecht are managed by farmers. That is why they are important for biodiversity. When people start working with landscape elements in practice, knowledge is important. What happens if you plant a hedge or an orchard and what will it look like in fifteen years? year?

The space under the hedge is a reservoir for soil life and insects

Kenneth Rijsdijk, researcher at the University of Amsterdam

According to Passman, it is difficult to determine the extent of loss of small landscape elements. It depends on what you look at again. Knowledge about species diversity in regions was not built until after the middle of the last century. Landscape knowledge is more up to date. “Looking at old maps, you see that small forests have disappeared in an area like Lübekerwaard,” says the project leader.

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Land consolidation

Land consolidation certainly played a role in the disappearance of small green spaces from the landscape. Passman also believes that job losses have caused landscape elements to disappear. “But we are also showcasing more and more functions that we have paid less attention to in recent years.”

Pollinators, natural enemies and biodiversity for other purposes appear to be valuable, and even economically attractive, to agricultural producers. “These beautiful landscapes also attract people who can gain something from it,” says the project leader.

Utrecht aims to achieve 10% green-blue interconnection in the long term, says Passmann. “This is quite important.” Now you can calculate that we’re at 4 percent, so we still have 6 percent to add. For agricultural organisations, this may seem like a large number, but for nature and landscape organisations, this is the minimum.’

The project leader expects that the environmental and economic benefits will be tangible for all parties to achieve the ambitions.


According to Evelyn van der Kooy from the Nature and Environment Union in Utrecht, there are six organizations in the province working in the field of the natural environment. “They work extensively with citizens and businesses to preserve the landscape.”

Across the Netherlands, 60 percent of small landscape elements have disappeared since 1900. Now that the value of these elements is recognised, knowledge and recovery are goals of these collaborations.

Inception Knowledge Network

Kenneth Rijsdijk from the University of Amsterdam co-launched the Small Landscape Elements Knowledge Network. He specializes in the functions of small elements in the landscape and says there is an important function for small green spaces.

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“The impact of these elements is great.” A group of one hundred scientists recently published a large study in the journal Science. “They concluded that empty landscapes have a lower return,” Rijsdijk explains.

Normal functions

“It is primarily about natural functions, but part of this is that there is room for those who control harmful pests in agriculture. There is also room for predators that control pests,” says the researcher.

“Clusters in the landscape capture wind and hold water. Shrubs prevent the spread of harmful fumes. Also consider the discussion surrounding nitrogen. Less wind prevents the easy spread of pests. Plants filter out pollution and particulates. They are also known to be able to break down residues of crop protection products, Through the roots as well.

Livestock health

In the United Kingdom, biodiverse landscape elements have been found to contribute to livestock health. “It is surprising to see that livestock respond positively to more diversity in their diet thanks to those shrubs or because they graze on hedges,” says the researcher.

Small orchards, natural banks, flower strips and hedges contribute to the health of plants, animals and humans.
Small orchards, natural banks, flower strips and hedges contribute to the health of plants, animals and humans. © Knowledge Network Small Landscape Elements

Rijsdijk posted about the functions of hedges in the landscape. To do this, he looked at what lives under those hedges. “It is a reservoir of soil life and crawling insects. It could have a function for farmers. The range of these animals can reach hundreds of meters from this landscape element. These distances are not that bad, in the sense that they are much greater than we assume,” Rijsdijk emphasizes.

According to the researcher, policymakers do not adequately realize the economic importance of a hedge or a small piece of nature in the landscape. “Research into this has only been done in the last 20 years. You can calculate that the economic value of green spaces is up to 2,500 euros per linear kilometer. The more people participate in an area, the greater the impact.

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The knowledge network targets farmers and other landowners

Targets have been set to increase green and blue in Utrecht’s landscape, but this is not the first goal of the Small Landscape Elements Knowledge Network, says project leader Hein Passmann from Utrecht Landscape Heritage. “We see that knowledge about managing small landscape elements and the species that live in them is decreasing. We want to increase this again and engage people in this practice. The Small Landscape Elements Knowledge Network was launched on November 2. This network targets participants from as many people as possible From the parties. This may interest agricultural entrepreneurs and other landowners, but also people with a small piece of land or volunteers who want to get involved in landscape management. After the kick-off on 2 November, the Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht team will use its own page website To keep stakeholders and participants informed. “We post activities like training courses and trips there and always report on them at short notice, so the knowledge is accessible to everyone,” says Passman. The website is a platform for questions. “For example, you will also find a link there if you want to know more about support,” says the project leader. Bassman expects that financial support is important for farmers in the governorate. “It is nice to mention that the province is in the process of developing a scheme that can partially compensate for the decline in land values ​​caused by taking parcels of land out of production. If you want an economic model, you should definitely take that into consideration.”

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