Use of Branch Principles in Groningen Province

The BRANCH principles were sustained in the province of Groningen. The objective was to define an ecological structure, which has de ability to adapt to climate change and compare the results with the existing ecological main structure in the region (Roggema et al., 2008). The first step in the planning process consists of defining the unique existing and potential nature reserves. The specific habitats for the area were chosen and for each specific habitat a so-called guiding species was picked. Not the species as such is important, but it needs to represent the ecosystem and habitat it is derived from. For every guiding species the required area and connections were calculated and positioned on a map of the region (Fig. 5.22). In some occasions the available area is not big enough to create enough habitat for an existing species under threat of changing climate or for a new entering species. In most occasions there is a lack of connections. The required measures to deal with a changing climate were sketched on the maps.

The next step is to link the desired measures for every guiding species with the existing water system. The specific situation and desired climate proof measures from a water point of view are easily combined and most of the time compatible with the proposed ecological measures. Every part of the water system is approached separate in order to define the best possible measures for the rarity and the role in the entire water system. Measures are defined for the Sandy brooks and ridges, Former peat-moor, Lower grounds and Marine clay area (Fig. 5.23). In the Marine clay area the main objective is to discharge water into the sea. This is easily combined with ecological aims to restore the marshes and to let water re-enter inland to start the natural process of a rising ground level. In the Lower grounds the main objective

Fig. 5.22 Climate proof measures for the guiding species Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis, left) and Large Copper (Lycaena dispar, right) (Source: Roggema et al., 2008)
Fig. 5.23 Climate proof ecological measures connected with existing water system: Marine clay (top left), Lower grounds (top right), Sandy plateaus of brooks and ridges (bottom left) and Former peat-moor (bottom right) (Source: Roggema et al., 2008)

is to store as much water as possible. This can be combined with the ecological desire to create larger and more areas and connection of wet nature. The area of Former peat-moor is treated with a rational controlled water management system in order to provide the agriculture with enough water at the right moment. The most valuable areas of the Sandy brooks and ridges are treated as a sponge: keep as much water in the area and discharge it as slowly as possible. In these areas the ecological objectives to create wet brook nature and gradients are cooperative with the water aims.

If the climate proof ecological measures are integrated and drawn on the map they can be compared with the existing policy of the ecological main structure in

Fig. 5.24 All climate proof ecological measures (left) compared with the ecological main structure in Groningen (right) (Source: Roggema et al., 2008)

Groningen (Fig. 5.24). The similarities are visible, but there are also quite some differences between both maps. Especially the amount of connections is much higher in the climate proof map and generally the size of areas is larger.

The final step in the planning process is to overlap both maps in order to find out which additions must me made in future policy (Fig. 5.25). Again, connections and additions become visible.

The use of BRANCH principles in the province of Groningen illustrate that a climate proof ecology needs to be extended with square metres as well as with connections in order to provide both enough ecological capacity as well as increase the connectivity between areas. Taking these measures support species to shift along with climate zones, provide better chances for existing species and prevent species from extinction.

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