Natuurlijk Kapitaal Nederland | natuur & economie verbinden

Using the Natural Capital Netherlands conceptual model for linking opportunities in the Delta Programme

Havengebied Delfzijl - Ivo VranckenIn the planning processes for flood protection, early identification of the economic and ecological benefits of nature-inclusive solutions may result in decisions that differ from those normally taken. The Nature Capital Netherlands approach – based on identifying, valuing and capturing ecosystem services – provides a method for doing so.

Research issue

Examining the suitability of the NKN approach for nature-inclusive decision-making in the Delta Programme.


The research comprised two pilot studies: the Eemshaven-Delfzijl dyke reinforcementand the flood channel at Varik-Heesselt. Both projects form part of the Delta Programme. Between Eemshaven and Delfzijl, a double dyke is being considered with room for nature, saltwater agriculture and a sediment sump in between. A channel in the floodplains of the river Waal between Varik and Heesselt would mean that less investment would be needed for dyke reinforcements further upstream. Three planning alternatives were outlined, varying in channel scales.

The researchers looked at the added economic and ecological value of the nature-inclusive solutions. For this, they used the Nature Capital Netherlands conceptual model(NKN) which they applied by using a practical checklist.

Checklist for nature-inclusive solutions in the Delta Programme

1. Ecosystem services (ESS) have been identified and mapped

  • The project sets out a clear framework, vision or scope that (alongside other possible alternatives) calls for a nature-inclusive design in which ecosystem services are included right from the beginning.
  • Ecosystem services have been identified
  • There are alternatives that also include ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem services have been included/are referred to:
  • A) New value for society has been created which contribute to the solution or:
  • B) New value for society has been created that is based on/arises from a nature-inclusive approach, or because nature objectives will also be achieved (linked) in addition to the  primary objective of the project

2. Ecosystem services have been valued

  • Qualitatively (sometimes conviction/ ambition is sufficient, sometimes more is needed) or quantitatively (enabling alternatives to be compared more easily)
  • Statements about effectiveness and scale
  • Basis for proper consideration of feasibility and affordability (e.g. with instruments such as a cost-benefit analysis (CBA or groundwater assessment)

3.Ecosystem service values have been captured, because included in the decision-making

  • Opportunities have been seized and obstacles addressed:
  • A) Institutional: political and administrative decision-making
  • B) Institutional: acceptance among stakeholders
  • C) Finance and allocation mechanisms
  • D) Legislation, regulations/assessment
  • E) Management and maintenance
  • Opportunities for ecosystem services were seriously considered in the decision-making process, but, after due consideration, were not selected.


For reinforcement of the Eemshaven-Delfzijl dyke, the project steering group established that the valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity had been carried out in sufficient detail and provided a sound economic and ecological outlook for the double dyke structure. This provided an important basis for the administrative decision to have the preferred option of the multifunctional double flood defence zone worked out in further detail and tested in a pilot project.

For the flood channel at Varik-Heesselt, the comparison of the alternatives based on ecosystem services and nature value had more to offer when the linking opportunities were included. Quantification helped to differentiate the opportunities early on in the process. There appeared to be great benefit for nature, but little for ecosystem services. The provincial and municipal authorities are largely in favour of a nature-inclusive plan for the channel. Local residents are still in doubt about the need for the channel and its placement.


Participants found the pilot studies to be useful. They saw the added value of early insight into the benefits of ecosystem services and nature features offered by the alternative flood protection solutions. A preparatory phase of flood protection plans normally focuses mainly on construction costs. The NKN analysis broadened people’s understanding of the benefits. This enables linking opportunities for ecosystem services and nature to be fully included in further calculations and plan development.


Applying the NKN approach in water safety measures is expected to remain limited, as long as it is not included in the procedures in the Flood Protection Programme and the Multi-annual Programme for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and Transport (MIRT). It is recommended that procedures state that nature-inclusive solutions must always be considered in an early stage of the planning process, so that opportunities for biodiversity and ecosystem services are not overlooked. Researchers recommended that the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in collaboration with other parties concerned, conduct an analysis of those opportunities.

Study conducted by

Alterra (part of Wageningen University and Rerearch Centre) and Deltares Research Institute

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