Students use minor programme to get their teeth into ecosystem services in Goeree-Overflakkee

Goeree-Overflakkee, a small island in the south-west of the Netherlands, is currently being thoroughly observed by 18 third-year students from different study programmes at HAS University of Applied Sciences. Obviously, not the entire Goeree–Overflakkee island, but specifically the ecosystem services there. The 10-week minor ‘Ecosystems and their value to society’ started on 1 May.

Different fields of expertise that complement each other

The minor focused on the philosophy behind ecosystem services: i.e. the services that nature provides us. The HAS students have taken on a number of complex spatial projects for the municipality of Goeree-Overflakkee, the province of Zuid-Holland and Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch forestry commission. The fact that they come from different study programmes is a bonus as it is precisely the combination of everyone’s different expertise that enables the students to come up with the innovative ideas that are needed with such topics.

Getting to know the island

The students went to Goeree-Overflakkee during the second week of the minor. During this visit, they got to know the island and acquired further information from experts on the various ecosystem services. Inspirational visits introduced the group to the island and its inhabitants, customs and ecosystem services. They included trips to the Waternoodmuseum (the Dutch national museum commemorating the floods in the Netherlands in February 1953), the water management company Evides, the inspiration centre of Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works) and the Fish Innovation Centre in Stellendam. On day 3 of their visit, the students and lecturers were welcomed at the municipality of Middelharnis, where the municipality of Goeree-Overflakkee, the province of South-Holland and Staatsbosbeheer explained the 4 projects that the groups of students would be looking into during the rest of the minor.

4 complex spatial projects

  • The energy highway N59
    During this project, the students research how, from an ecosystem service perspective, they can make the road more sustainable (in terms of both energy and biodiversity) as well as increasing safety
  • Energy landscape Pallandspolder
    Students are optimising the landscape surrounding the energy park. Which ecosystem services can you enhance?
  • The ecosystem services of various types of agriculture on Goeree-Overflakkee
    Students in this project are carrying out an inventory of the ecosystem services of small-scale agriculture at the top of the island and of the large-scale agriculture in the centre of the island.
  • Kierbesluit
    Students are studying the effects that the Kierbesluit will have on various ecosystems, and the services that they provide on the island

Contents of the minor

The minor ‘Ecosystems and their value to society’ enables HAS University of Applied Sciences to introduce students to thinking in terms of ecosystem services and of course their value as a means to finding other solutions to spatial problems,” explains the course coordinator, Maaike de Graaf. “To put it briefly, HAS teaches students to work with nature, instead of against it. In this module, they take the resources that the earth has to offer as their starting point: the healthy soil, water, air and biodiversity. These resources provide them with the ecosystem services, for example producing food using pollination by insects, clean drinking water by filtering rainwater in the dunes, and beautiful and natural landscapes for recreational purposes.”

Final presentation

“By making the natural resources and the ecosystem services transparent, and by putting a value on them (including a financial value), it becomes possible to weigh up various priorities – for example nature versus intensive agriculture. This enables students to create a setup or plan that creates the most value.” The final presentations of these projects will be held on 6 July 2017 in Middelharnis town hall.