Europe’s researchers discuss post-2020 biodiversity policy

During a conference this week Europe’s ecosystem researchers formulated key messages to help shape Europe’s future biodiversity strategy.

Next year the EU biodiversity strategy towards 2020 comes to an end. Current signs are that its objectives will not all be met. As was recently confirmed by a UN assessment biodiversity worldwide is still in decline and many species face extinction in the short term. More than ever immediate action is needed from all to help change the future, change our behaviour and transform society.

Some 100 researchers from natural and social sciences as well as policymakers and civil society organizations gathered in this year’s ALTER-Net/EKLIPSE conference to develop science-based recommendations for the European Commission. These should feed into the biodiversity policy beyond 2020. ALTER-Net is Europe’s ecosystem research network and EKLIPSE is a European biodiversity science-policy interface under development. As a science-policy-society knowledge broker, Delbaere Consulting is an ALTER-Net member and actively contributed to formulating the policy messages.

The many presentations, workshops and debates during the three-day conference in Ghent (Belgium) covered a wide range of topics, from global assessments to local citizen-based initiatives, from green infrastructure to democratization of research. A red line throughout the conference was that, apart from the doomy picture of the state of biodiversity, there is a need for more inclusiveness, stakeholder involvement, science-based decision making, integration of biodiversity concerns into other policy sectors and with society, and emotional connection to nature.

During an interactive session key messages were discussed and reformulated, messages that will be further refined during the next weeks and then communicated to the European policymakers and the interested public in autumn 2019.

What is the state of the wild plants of Tilburg?

Following my design of a biodiversity monitoring network for the municipality of Tilburg and the testing of the proposed method, Delbaere Consulting got a new assignment from the municipality. The monitoring network covers among others land use, public green space, public perception of green, and the state of plant and animal species. For the last component inventories must be carried out. Birds, amphibians, bats, butterflies and flowering plants must be counted following an agreed method, so that data can be compared in future years. In my new assignment  I will inventory the wild flora on 30 selected plots. On the basis of the species found and their rarity an indication can be given of the state of Tilburg’s wild flora, as a basis for identifying changes in years to come.


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Photo: Ben Delbaere

About a bus and busy bees

Sustainability is not only about the environment, but also about people and money.

With regard to people, and following the credo ‘ecology with an accent’, Delbaere Consulting has now supported the purchase of a small bus for the day care home Stichting Appelbloesem. This foundation offers day activities for people with dementia and non-congenital memory loss. In De Ambrosiushof in Hilvarenbeek, a natural environment with an impressive tree garden (over 500 plant species, selected to attract bees), the people find a lush, safe place to relax and deploy their qualities while working in the garden.

A bus, customized to people with reduced mobility, was urgently needed to transport the clients and to organize day trips. A crowdfunding action was set up with businesses in the region to buy the bus. When I was approached last year I decided to join the initiative. Instead of sending my clients a good bottle of wine at the turn of the year I made them part of the action by donating a fixed amount per client to support the bus. This bus has now been put into use with a small celebration, freeing up the foundation’s budget to invest in people, plants and bees.

Measuring the state of biodiversity of Tilburg

Following my proposal for a local biodiversity monitoring network the municipality of Tilburg (the Netherlands) has contracted me to carry out a biodiversity baseline measurement. This will be done on the basis of existing data. Such measurement will form the basis for identifying future trends in biodiversity and will help testing and refining the proposed approach.


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Talking about nature with agrisector senior managers

At the occasion of the annual meeting of over 60 senior managers of Lely holding, an international agrisector company, I presented the link between agriculture and nature, both in terms of impacts and in terms of possible solutions for more nature friendly farming. This was part of a visit of the representatives to an organic farm and its automation processes in Tilburg, the Netherlands.


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Photo: Ben Delbaere

How effective is EU policy on invasive alien species?

Delbaere Consulting is now part of an international team that will assess the effectiveness of the EU Regulation on invasive alien species. In a new assignment with Wageningen Environmental Research I will develop an approach to assess the Regulation, recommend ways to communicate about results, and propose methods to align data collection on invasive alien species with that of other EU nature and environment policies. In the coming two years the team will work towards answering the question whether the Regulation is effective in helping to reduce the adverse impact of invasive alien species on biodiversity.


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Assessing the ecological impact of a planned road

In a new assignment starting this month I will carry out the ecological assessment of possible impacts of a planned road on species and habitats in a European protected area. In collaboration with local land owners and other stakeholders we’ll propose measures to compensate any negative impacts.


Urban green infrastructure? What is that all about? Well, it’s a slightly technical term to refer to the whole set of green features in cities that together form the infrastructure via which plants and animals move around and survive. Think of city parks, gardens, road verges, green walls and roofs, and water courses. It’s the green analogue of grey infrastructure, the complex of roads, buildings and other structures in asphalt, concrete and stone  via which people in which people live and move around.READ MORE

New book about nature in Brabant

On 24 November a new reference book about nature in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant was published. The book, Natuurgebieden in Noord-Brabant: Ontstaan, Ontginning en Natuurontwikkeling (Nature areas in North-Brabant: origin, exploitation, and nature restoration), is the result of three years of writing by some 30 experts, most of whom are members of the Ecological Society Middle Brabant. The first copy of the book was offered to the Governor of the province, Mr Wim van de Donk. This happened at the Brabant Natural History Museum in Tilburg at the occasion of the 85 years jubilee of the site managing organisation Brabants Landschap.READ MORE

Europe’s jungles need our care

Did you know that Europe still hosts a number of ancient woodlands? Forests that have not been touched by humans for centuries and that are regarded as pristine. These jungles – or old growth forests to use more technical jargon – are mainly located in the eastern part of Europe. Together, they cover less than 1% of the European Union territory. They however are home to over 10,000 species of plants, animals and other species. This is a modest estimate, as much remains unknown for example on soil biodiversity. Some of these species, like Brown bear and Lynx, are very iconic and seldom seen. Other species find their last shelter in these remote jungles.READ MORE

Supporting the Biodiversity Information System for Europe

I’m delighted to continue my long-standing cooperation with the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, under contract to the European Environment Agency. Starting this week under a new assignment I will help improve access to biodiversity information in Europe.

Pursuing benefits for nature and society

The summary for policy makers of this year’s ALTER-Net conference is now published. Titled ‘Pursuing benefits for nature and society’ the policy brief formulates five key messages from Europe’s ecosystem research community in support of identifying synergies and reducing conflicts between nature and society.READ MORE

Greening an office building

In a new assignment, I will offer ecological advice to Corpac House in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Continuing work from my time with ECNC in previous years, I will engage as ‘ecology champion’ to support the renovation of the Corpac building, an office building in the centre of the town. This renovation adheres to the BREEAM sustainability standards, which include a chapter on fauna and flora. Also the surrounding biodiversity garden, established in 2010, will be fully integrated in the renovation process and monitored by me.


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Counting butterflies

As of today I can start counting butterflies again! At least according to the protocol of the national monitoring network butterflies. The Netherlands Butterfly Foundation coordinates this network since the 1990s (and there are comparable networks across Europe). Since about 15 years I’m one of the 500-odd volunteers who from April till September every week walk a fixed route of about one kilometre to count the butterflies. All results are nationally collected and processed.READ MORE

Supporting conference on Nature and Society

In a new assignment with ALTER-Net, Europe’s ecosystem research network, I will collect the output from the many sessions at this year’s conference on ‘Nature and Society: synergies, conflicts, trade-offs’ and on that basis produce two briefs for policymakers.

Working together for Finland’s water heritage

A deepfreeze day in the south of Finland; some 80 conservationists from all over Europe enjoy a bright sunlit sky and temperatures below minus 15 degrees. They visit some of the restoration measures that are being carried out to restore freshwater habitats and their endangered species.READ MORE

The downside of an agricultural export record

Last week Dutch media reported in big headlines about a record that Dutch agriculture had beaten. In 2016 agricultural products were exported for an amount of not less than 85 billion euros. This makes the Netherlands second, after the USA, in the world ranking. Quite an achievement for such a small country!READ MORE

First assignment kicked off

Working with the NEEMO EEIG consortium I will monitor LIFE Nature projects in the Benelux. The European Union (EU) protects over 27,000 natural areas that are of special European importance. READ MORE