Climate-proofing Rural Areas
The regional water system is as much a part of rural areas as the farmland and natural landscape. While the Netherlands is home to a wide variety of landscapes and natural values, it is also noted for its intensive farming and high level of agricultural produce. The rural areas not only have important functions in terms of agriculture, natural environment and landscape, but also for recreational activities, the drinkingwater supply, housing and employment. It also carries visible infrastructure such as roads and dikes, and underground infrastructure such as the sewage system and water mains.
In particular, the rural areas around the densely populated Randstad offer a mix of agricultural land use, natural environment and co-use by urban areas for recreation, housing and mobility, etc.
Water management can be a major guiding factor for the development of regional spatial planning and infrastructure. One key question is whether adapting to or moving along with the changes in the water balance caused by climate change is the best water management strategy for agriculture, the natural environment and the drinking-water supply. We need to search for adaptation measures that take into account or even make use of the specific characteristics and functions of the area. The challenge here is to combine as many functions as possible. For such an integrated, multifunctional approach to the use of space, attention needs to be devoted to both physical and socioeconomic aspects of adaptation measures. Moreover, these adaptation measures must also be in line with the mitigation task to which the Netherlands has committed itself through international agreements. These mitigation agreements probably even offer the opportunity to develop new functions, such as the fixation of greenhouse gases or producing climate-neutral energy. With regard to adaptation, there would also seem to be opportunities for developing so-called climate services, such as buffer areas to reduce the effects of extreme weather conditions and to cool urban areas during heat waves.
Nature policy is also an important theme for rural areas. Apparently there is no frame of reference currently available for natural environmental goals that are realistic and appropriate in a changing climate. Perhaps opportunities exist to link up with the potential climate services offered by small landscape features.
What is the impact of climate change on its rural areas and the associated functions?
What combinations of function contribute to a climateneutral, robust and optimum organisation of the rural areas, and how can peri-urban rural areas be organised to counteract or reduce the adverse effects of climate change in urban areas?
What are the prospects for developing a so-called climate service for both agriculture and nature, and how could the transition take place from the agricultural system, the water system and nature conservancy to a climate service as a new economic agent?
What are adequate adaptation strategies for agriculture, nature and the water system, and on which points of departure must these strategies and the ensuing policy (including nature policy) be based? Is it possible to design and manage the regional water system in such a way as to support the functions of agricultur and nature?
A Consortium on Climate Adaptation for Rural areas was formed in 2010. The aim of this Consortium research programme is to assess the effects of climate change and adaptive strategies (i.e. sets of concrete adaptation measures) on agriculture, nature and other land-use functions in the rural landscape of the Netherlands (read more). The strategies are meant to:
- achieve a climate proof ecological structure that allows meeting high standard climate proof nature targets
- give positive perspectives to agriculture, the drinking water sector and other land-use functions
- optimize the overall functionality of the landscape, in terms of water management, biodiversity, agriculture, drinking water and recreation
View the list with CcSP and KfC projects with regard to this Research theme.