The urban brownfield as greenfield

swallow wall Zeeburgereiland (© Anneke Blokker, dro)

swallow wall Zeeburgereiland (© Anneke Blokker, dro)


In today’s largely paved and cultivated cities, bare soil can be considered as one of the scarcest goods available, almost exclusively occurring on brownfields. Despite its scarcity and its rough conditions, often up to 60% of all species occurring in a city can be found on these wastelands within the city bounds, including the very rare ones. The explanation for this is simple; bare grounds attract pioneer species, and due to ongoing urbanisation and cultivation of the Netherlands these pioneer species continuously lose habitat, resulting in a decline in occurrence.

Brownfields however, have always been available, and due to the economic crisis even more available than ever. In the past the arrival of red list species was not wanted by landowners because the Dutch flora and fauna law stated that building projects were not allowed to start in case the species would arrive, in order to protect the species. Therefore landowners used a wide range of methods to stop any nature from arriving, ranging from paving to farming and the use of chemicals. However, a recent change in the law can make the necessity of these efforts a thing of the past. In order to facilitate habitat and dispersal of these pioneer species landowners can apply for a dispensation of the flora and fauna law, when in trade they put in effort for facilitating temporary biodiversity. These efforts can range from creating puddles that can be used by amphibians such as the natter jack toad, to creating nesting places for swallows(image).

These efforts are often cheap in comparison to the methods used to scare of nature. The dispensation also offers more security for the building projects, because methods blocking nature are not always effective. Making the temporary biodiversity hotspots (partly) available for people can create a relation with other landowners and inhabitants in the area, even before building has started. The use of these brownfields as greenfield in the future can therefore result in a win-win situation, a green-deal where nature and people both benefit.

More info:
Innovatie netwerk_tijdelijke natuur
Natuur in de haven
Tijdelijke natuur
How can wastelands promote biodiversity in cities? A review S. Bonthoux et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 132 (2014) 79–88