Planning and conserving nature areas are challenging tasks in urbanized and intensively used countries like the Netherlands. This paper supports decision making and public policy debate about these tasks in both an empirical and a methodological way. Empirically, we explore policy alternatives by determining the potential consequences of different nature policy scenarios in the Netherlands. Methodologically, we employ a mixed monetary and non-monetary evaluation method known as multi-criteria cost-benefit analysis (MCCBA). We evaluate four new future directions of Dutch nature policy that address four dominant stakeholder demands: biodiversity conservation, the provision of ecosystem services, recreational potential as well as economic gains. To balance compact presentation of evaluation outcomes on the one hand and information richness of results on the other, we distinguish between two impact indicator sets: three “headline” and ten “elaborate” indicators. Using these indicators we discuss the quantitative assessment of the four nature policy scenarios by comparing them to two other scenarios, reflecting the 2010 stand-still baseline situation (2010) as well as a reference policy (Trend). In total, we evaluate six scenarios; four present new directions and two reflect existing or recently (2010) halted practices. Our findings first of all show that even in an urbanized country like the Netherlands, with its intensive competition among land use functions, serious gains in national and international biodiversity are possible. Second, we find that it is doubtful whether stimulating the provision of regulating ecosystem services in a country which applies intensive and profitable agricultural techniques is beneficial. Other countries or areas that are less suitable for intensive agricultural practices may be more logical for this. Finally we demonstrate that increasing urban recreational green space − a common challenge for many urban areas − can only be achieved at relatively high costs, while it does not seem to lead to relatively high scores on nature appreciation. Nature appreciation seems to be served better by wilder nature than by park-like nature.
- Environmental sciences