BR.20.013 – Forests for Our Future (FoF): sustaining biodiversity, carbon storage and drinking water production on sandy soils in the Netherlands

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 011 How can we ensure proper water governance in the future?

Owing to their favorable drainage and infiltration characteristics, sandy soils are crucial for drinking water production and provide approximately a quarter of the Dutch population with drinking water of exceptional quality. These Dutch sandy-soil regions are also home to several national parks and semi-natural and managed forests, typically consisting of the conifer tree species pine, spruce, larch and fir. Species selection was historically motivated by their favorable growth characteristics on sandy (sub)soils, with little thought given to their high water use. As a result, prolonged droughts are currently causing severe problems for drinking water production, forest health, and nature conservation, including the seepage dependent ecosystems, for all sandy-soil regions in the Netherlands. Although climate change may aggravate droughts in the future, the fundamental sensitivity of Dutch sandy-soil regions to droughts is related to water management and evaporation characteristics of the tree species composition and understory. Furthermore, the wish to increase carbon storage through reforestation in currently unforested sandy-soil areas is high on the Dutch policy agenda. Hence, dependence on these regions for drinking water production, biodiversity conservation and carbon storage is increasing. Yet, resilience of the current system to prolonged drought is low while currently biodiversity and drinking water production are already under threat. It will be expected that thse threats will increase if reforestation plans are implemented without change in species selection, composition and water management strategies. Policy making and spatial planning typically relies on projection models to estimate future changes in water use, carbon storage and biodiversity. Problematically, these models have large uncertainty in the knowledge that determine the changes in groundwater recharge, storage and seepage, specifically in relation to how vegetation influences and responds to these dynamics. The FoF project therefore investigate long-term sustainable solutions to safeguard future drinking water production, biodiversity and forest carbon storage.


biodiversity, carbon storage, drinking water production, drought, ecosystem services, forests, groundwater recharge, Trees

Other organisations

will be announced in a later phase


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. Stefan C. Dekker