Selected research highlights

Selected research highlights

Flooded roadIVM’s Elco Koks is one of the authors of a recent article in Nature Communications, presenting a global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. The authors estimate that about 27% of all global road and railway assets are exposed to at least one hazard and some 7.5% of all assets are exposed to a 1/100 year flood event. Global Expected Annual Damages (EAD) due to direct damage to road and railway assets range from 3.1 to 22 billion US dollars, of which about 73% is caused by surface and river flooding. Global EAD are small relative to global GDP (some 0.02%). However, in some countries EAD reach 0.5 to 1% of GDP annually, which is the same order of magnitude as national transport infrastructure budgets. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that increasing flood protection would have positive returns on around 60% of roads exposed to a 1/100 year flood event.

Convention on Biological DiversityRecent scientific reports highlight the urgent need to stop biodiversity loss. Governments have failed to implement their commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with dire consequences for the health of our planet. Ongoing negotiations for a new ‘global post-2020 strategy’ under the CBD present a window of opportunity to turn the tide. 

In a recent policy brief researchers from PBL (Marcel Kok) and IVM (Oscar Widerberg, Katarzyna Negacz, Cebuan Bliss, and Philipp Pattberg) suggest that a groundswell of cities, regions, companies, and civil society organizations could help ‘bend the curve’ on biodiversity loss. By mapping and analysing more than 300 international initiatives, they show that thousands of cities, regions, indigenous peoples and local communities, companies, and civil society organisations already engage in conservation and other biodiversity-related activities. Harnessing this ‘bottom-up’ movement could generate new momentum in the CBD negotiations. At this point, leadership is needed to take the process forward.

UrbanizationGlobal losses of natural area are primarily attributed to cropland expansion, whereas the role of urban expansion is considered minor. However, urban expansion can induce cropland displacement, potentially leading to a loss of forest elsewhere. The extent of this effect is unknown. A recent article in Nature Sustainability by IVM’s Jasper van Vliet shows that indirect forest losses, through cropland displacement, far exceed direct losses from urban expansion. On a global scale, urban land increased from 33.2 to 71.3 million hectares (Mha) between 1992 and 2015, leading to a direct loss of 3.3 Mha of forest and an indirect loss of 17.8 to 32.4 Mha. In addition, this urban expansion led to a direct loss of 4.6 Mha of shrubland and an indirect loss of 7.0 to 17.4 Mha. Guiding urban development towards more sustainable trajectories can thus help preserve forest and other natural area at a global scale.

Photo: Natuurmonumenten
With the ‘Dream Fund’ project (in Dutch: Droomfondsproject) Haringvliet six Dutch nature organizations invest in Haringvliet’s nature, landscape and recreational infrastructure with the idea that a simultaneous improvement of the natural environment of Haringvliet and its recreational use benefits the local economy and regional quality of life. In a study estimating the effects for People, Planet and Profit, the Institute for Environmental Studies, Blueconomy and Wageningen University jointly conclude that improvements in the natural environment, better recreational opportunities and a more open dam system in the Haringvliet are beneficial for nature and people.

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