Nationwide approach to boosting knowledge of biodiversity in the Netherlands

Biodiversiteit in Nederland
© G. Lanting / Wikimedia Commons

Nationwide approach to boosting knowledge of biodiversity in the Netherlands

Introducing the new Centre of Excellence for Netherlands Biodiversity Research
Press release

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To boost knowledge about biodiversity in the Netherlands, a nationwide approach to scientific research is required. To make such an approach possible, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ-NWO) and Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute-KNAW have joined forces.

Together, the four institutes will launch the new Centre of Excellence for Netherlands Biodiversity Research. Its aim is to significantly increase integral knowledge of Dutch biodiversity in all environments: on land, in fresh and saltwater, and from genes to entire ecosystems.

The new centre also offers a platform for universities and knowledge institutes in the Netherlands to cooperate. The aim is to create a hub of knowledge about biodiversity available to every scientist. Universities are therefore warmly encouraged to join. 

The centre will collaborate on research, and share important facilities, to help science and society move forward. It will be formally launched on 29 September 2020 during the Dutch Biodiversity Gala, which also marks the start of Naturalis' 200th anniversary celebrations.

Biodiversity loss has economic impact

Biodiversity loss is one of the major threats to humanity, and is having an increasing economic and social impact. See also the recent report from the Dutch Central Bank and Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on the financial risks of biodiversity loss.

Recovery measures have so far been hit and miss. For management and restoration efforts to be effective, more fundamental knowledge of ecology and the ecology behind it is required.

Edwin van Huis, Managing Director of Naturalis: "It’s important that there’s a national approach to scientific research on biodiversity. This cooperation - with universities and other knowledge institutions as well, of course - makes it possible to do much better fundamental and applied research and to coordinate the research with each other and thus make smarter use of our resources".

Nationwide approach needed

The Netherlands is an international leader in many of the biological disciplines in the field of biodiversity. However, connections between knowledge on different levels are sometimes missing: between macro- and microbiological diversity, for example. It is also important to gain more insight into the ways in which species react to each other when biodiversity de- or increases.

"Our commitment is to increasing scientific knowledge of biodiversity in the Netherlands at the level of genes as well as species and ecosystems," says Prof. Dr. Geert de Snoo, director of NIOO-KNAW. "The challenges are obvious. Think of the relationships between biodiversity and climate change, land and water use, nitrogen and non-native substances. By working together as knowledge institutes, we are better able to gain insight into the restoration of our biodiversity".

"A unique feature of this alliance is the integration of national biodiversity knowledge, at both the macro- and the micro-level, on land, in the air and at sea", says Prof. Dr. Henk Brinkhuis, director of NIOZ. "This is urgently needed to achieve a real breakthrough in effective biodiversity management and restoration. Much is still unknown, so a lot of scientific research is needed to map current the biodiversity situation and understand its interactions. This will enable us to achieve the objectives of the Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery, the North Sea consultations and other societal green agendas at an earlier stage."

Building on recent investments

This cooperation also builds on NWO's recent investments in a National Roadmap for Large-Scale Scientific Infrastructure. Grants have been allocated to the ARISE project (which includes both Naturalis and the Westerdijk Institute) for the construction of a globally unique infrastructure aimed at mapping all multi-cell species in the Netherlands, and to a project aimed at providing NIOZ's research fleet with innovative (large-scale) scientific equipment.

In addition, NIOO-KNAW is a partner in the Onder het Maaiveld project, which gives underground biodiversity the attention it deserves with a financial contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

These important investments offer smart and fast ways to obtain a more reliable picture of biodiversity throughout the kingdom of the Netherlands, including also Aruba, Curaçao and Saint Martin.


  • Thirza Stam, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • Froukje Rienks, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
  • Kim Sauter, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ-NWO)
  • Pedro Crous, Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute-KNAW