NL-2 :: Liveability of rural areas

By nature the landscape mirros the (qualities of) soil and subsurface. Intensified land-use and increased technical possibilities alleviate the limitations posed by soil conditions. Economic developments and political choices have always influenced the land use in the Netherlands, but globalisation leads increasingly to uniform production requirements and standard landscapes. In rural areas scale enlargement and intensification of production, e.g. in horticulture and pig farming, is common. Dairy farmers partly intensify and another part d-intensifies. Many agricultural family-farm based businesses are sold to larger enterprises by lack of succession.
In remote rural areas (for Dutch standards), a decrease in facilities and employment is seen. Young people move away, villages are shrinking. Incidents, such as the Q-fever disease even further decline the popularity of rural areas. On the other side, in metropolitan and peri-urban regions, the rural is a very popular area for commuters’ residence. Other positive examples can be mentioned as well: farmers investing in sustainable energy production; or a mix of functions such as care or education.
This all influences the liveability of these areas. There is a need to develop a vision on the rural. Rural regions need an attractive mix of land use functions. The liveability needs to be supported by multifunctionality: recreational value, natural value, attractively of the area for residence or business. The main question is here, how can we improve the liveability of rural areas by making optimal and sustainable use of the natural soil-sediment-water system and land management, duly incorporating natural and cultural heritage values and economic and social factors determining the location of a business?
Specific research questions:
• How can we improve the quality of life in rural areas by making the best use of the soil-sediment-water system and land management, taking into account natural and cultural values and economic and social factors that determine the location of businesses and individuals?
• How can the demand for regional biomass (for bioenergy) offer opportunities to stimulate the construction and maintenance of landscape elements?
Natural capital
• Is it important for the liveability of rural areas (Dutch identity) to show the significance of soil and subsurface as the basis of characteristic landscapes (including geological values, archaeology, geomorphology)? And if so, how do we return the 'readability' of the subsurface characteristics in the landscape?
• How can geological, cultural and biological values above and below ground level being expressed in social and economic values?
Land management
• Can economic and social-cultural scenario studies that combine different land uses to an attractive and livable rural area being developed? How can such multifunctional land use improve economy and ecology?
• What are the true costs and benefits of land use in rural areas, who benefits, who pays the cost, and how can this be fairly distributed?
• How can the Programmatic Approach to Nitrogen (PAN) be utilized to improve land use and the liveability of the rural area
• What is the role soil for health?
o What is the role of soil, sediment and water in the spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans and to other animals (zoonoses such as Q-fever)?
o What is the role of soil, sediment, water in the spread of antibiotic resistance?
o What is the role of soil in the spread and risk of (new) contaminants such as medicines and nanoparticles?
o What is the relationship with land use and safety in rural areas? How can these risks be reduced by soil management and farming methods?
• To what extent does the development in peri-urban areas to care farms, nurseries, agricultural recreation and therefore potential exposure to different substances, an increase or decrease in public health?
• How can agriculture and other land uses strengthen the soil-sediment-water system in rural areas and allow for sustainable agriculture as a function?
• What knowledge and measures are available when converting agricultural areas to nature, avoiding drastic measures such as excavation (to reach proper nutrient levels, water quantity)?
• How can farmers be stimulated to increase the contribution to the (soil) biodiversity and nature?
• How can we position ambitions for the soil and subsurface in the rural area in the Environment and Planning Act and its instruments (such as the “environmental visions”)? What knowledge of the soil-sediment-water system is needed?
• What factors influence decisions about land use in rural areas and how can the soil-sediment-water system be involved in spatial planning and land use?
• What does the soil-sediment-water system contribute to spatial quality in spatial developments such “Ruimte voor de Rivier” (“space for the river”)?
• How do can the users of land and groundwater in an area be involved in realizing clean groundwater and healthy soil for agriculture and nature?
• How can existing tools be enforced and / or are new tools needed to maintain and improve the liveability of rural areas on the basis of the local natural system and socio-cultural characteristics, focusing on function combinations?
Net impacts
• What land management measures are effective in improving the quality of life in rural areas and achieving sustainable nature (evaluation with pilots, exchange knowledge and experiences in "agro communities")?