Greening the countryside

Trees for All is working on greening the countryside. We’re doing so by introducing new landscape elements, like hedgerows, windbreaks and rows of trees. This will reinforce the unique landscapes of the Netherlands and improve the habitat of numerous plants and animals. Will you help us by planting a tree?

Status: Current project

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Why do we want to plant landscape elements with your help?

In recent years, more and more landscape elements have disappeared from rural areas. Windbreaks, for example, were used in the past to separate plots from one another or to keep livestock in the meadows. But many landscape elements have been lost, due to the invention of barbed wire, urban expansion and the scaling-up of agriculture.

Over the past century, we have lost 225 million metres of hedgerows alone. Not only does this detract from the identity of a landscape and our experience of it, but it is also a problem for all the plants and animals . As a result, they are deprived of their habitat. It also has an adverse effect on the quality of the air and soil and increases the risk of drought.

So, Trees for All is working on introducing landscape elements, to make the countryside green again and to bring back the unique characteristics of the landscape.

Reasons we can’t do without landscape elements

Landscape elements have several important functions for our nature and environment. Here are a few examples:

1. They ensure more biodiversity (different plants and animals)

Landscape elements connect areas of nature. They form a sort of bridge, making it easy and safe for plants and animals to move from one area to another. The trees and bushes provide safe shelter for birds, insects and mammals. They can also find food here and breed in peace and quiet. Landscape elements also provide ideal growing conditions for plants, mosses and toadstools, which in turn attract other animals, thus improving the natural environment.

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2. They contribute to healthy soil

The healthier the soil in an area, the more plants, animals and trees can live and survive there. And landscape elements contribute to this healthy soil. Strong tree and shrub roots draw rain water into the soil, reducing the risk of erosion. Moreover, micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi thrive in healthy soil, meaning that the soil can store more water and groundwater levels increase. Additionally, healthy soil like this forms the basis for a life-sustaining landscape.

3. They capture and store carbon

Trees capture and store carbon above ground and below it. So landscape elements like copses, rows of trees and hedgerows contribute to carbon storaging. They also capture particulates and nitrogen from traffic, industry and agriculture. Win-win-win!

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landschapselementen

4. They promote environmentally friendly agriculture

Landscape elements also benefit agriculture. The trees and shrubs attract insects, stimulating the pollination of flowers, plants and trees. And that, in turn, improves the growth of agricultural crops, such as fruit, lettuce or cabbage. Moreover, landscape elements help to combat pests, meaning that farmers need to use fewer crop protection products. And of course, healthy soil is also important for agriculture! In short, landscape elements contribute in all sorts of ways to environmentally friendly agriculture and to the conservation of biodiversity.

5. They provide healthy and characteristic surroundings

Green surroundings are pleasant for both people and animals. Trees provide oxygen, clean air and shade on hot days. Moreover, landscape elements lend a unique character to a landscape: from the hills of Limburg to the dunes on the coast. If these elements disappear, then not only do we lose a great deal of history, but we also lose the pleasant surroundings for residents, tourists and animals.

Which trees and shrubs are we planting?

Landscape elements comprise a variety of species of trees and shrubs. The type of tree we plant depends on the planting location. We look carefully, for example, at the type of soil, the water level and the general context of the landscape.

One constant factor, however, is that we always select native trees and shrubs that are typical of the area; species that belong in that specific place. The function of the trees and shrubs also plays a role. If it’s necessary to keep livestock in the meadows, then we plant thorny shrubs, like hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose. If we want to separate different plots of land, then it makes sense to plant windbreaks of species like hazel, oak, rowan, birch, blackthorn, dogwood and euonymus.

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meidoorn
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3 examples of landscape elements in the Netherlands

1. Windbreaks (or wooded banks)

Windbreaks are elongated strips of land with trees and shrubs. They are the predecessors of barbed wire and were often used in the past by farmers to keep their livestock within the boundaries and for harvesting timber once in a while.

Windbreaks still have an important function, as they provide shelter for livestock and for many types of birds, who build their nests there. In Twente, a total of six thousand kilometres of dense windbreaks can be found! By planting new trees and shrubs, we can also strengthen and connect this small-scale landscape in other places.

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2. Rows of trees (or tree avenues)

The name says it all: rows of trees are groups or lines of one or more species of native deciduous tree. A row is at least a few dozen metres in length. Rows of trees are found all over the Netherlands, in all shapes and sizes. In sandy areas, they’re mostly found alongside paths and plots of land. And in sea clay areas, they often grow on the dykes and along roads and waterways.

Not only do they play an important role in the landscape, but plants and animals benefit from them as well. Rows of trees form a nesting site for birds and orientation lines for creatures like bats to hunt and get from one area to another. Hollows in old trees are important for woodpeckers and pine martens, and tree trunks are often covered in mosses and toadstools.

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3. Hedgerows (or thickets)

Hedgerows are continuous, linear elements planted with native trees or shrubs. Like windbreaks, they were often used in the past to separate different plots of land. And hedgerows of thorny shrubs like hawthorn were used to keep the livestock in the meadows.

With the arrival of barbed wire around 1900, many hedgerows disappeared. They’re now found mainly around villages and farms. For animals, they provide not just a pleasant habitat with food, but also a sheltered hiding place.

Photo: Hedgerow landscape near Gietelo, by Marcel Post

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Where are we going to plant?

We’re going to plant landscape elements throughout the Netherlands, such as in Friesland. We’ll be planting on farmyards, at the edges of agricultural plots and alongside roads and ditches. The landscape elements will also be placed on ‘leftover’ corners: small areas of plots that are very damp of difficult to access.

The planting will take place in close cooperation with the landowners, including nature conservation organisations, local authorities and private individuals. We’ll make agreements with them about the long-term management and conservation of the elements. The practical implementation will be taken care of by our partners.