Due to a growing population, urbanization, industrialization and agriculture, the quality of nature and biodiversity globally has decreased enormously. This also applies to The Netherlands. Habitat banking is a market-based instrument for nature conservation and sustainable development to counteract this decrease. We analyze under which conditions habitat banking can indeed offer possibilities and opportunities for improving biodiversity, nature conservation and sustainable development in The Netherlands. For this, we first identify the shortcomings of mandatory nature compensation in The Netherlands and link them to current innovations in Dutch nature policy. In addition, we investigate three necessary instruments for a successful habitat banking system: (1) a system for nature valuation, (2) a method for creating ecological opportunity maps, and (3) the institutional setting in which habitat banking can be operationalized. We conclude that habitat banking contributes to solving the problems for nature and biodiversity and to sustainable development in The Netherlands, provided that this is primarily addressed (i) in the domain of voluntary nature compensation, (ii) in bottom-up pilots for integrated area development (in this article shortly referred to as area pilots) where the widest possible range of owners and users of these areas is involved, (iii) in a context of participatory decision-making and (iv) learning and experiment en route to social-ecological systems (SESs). To actually realize the added value of habitat banking for The Netherlands, further scientific research is required to collect and analyze empirical data from relevant stakeholders.
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