Nature inclusive planning, a vision for Small Island Development States

Small tropical islands are rich in biodiversity and host a wide variety of globally threatened ecosystems. These ecosystems are important for coastal protection and tourism, but also for erosion control and making the islands resistant to climate change. At the same time, there are all kinds of factors that cause a lot of pressure on both nature and other forms of land use that crowd together on the small area, such as a growing population and tourism industry, built development, erosion, salt intrusion and climate change, the latter resulting in sea-level rise and more frequent storm events.

Bonaire, one of the Dutch Caribbean islands, is facing major challenges: managing (mass) tourism and population growth, preventing high erosion rates due to free-roaming cattle, recharging fresh water into the soil, increasing the use of renewable energy, adaptation to sea level rise and extreme weather events, halting biodiversity loss and bending the unilateral dependency on tourism. In thirty years, Bonaire enevitably will look different. As progressing on current trends will only increase the challenges, a shifting perspective on spatial planning is needed.


Together with local experts an inspiring vision for Bonaire in 2050 is portrayed, in which nature and natural processes play a key role. It outlines a future in which economic development and a nature inclusive society join forces. In a super-interactive session, local experts and governments mapped out potential nature-inclusive measures and explained where, and why and how these should be adopted. These potential measures include for example rooftop water harvesting, reforestation and greening gardens using indigenous species, coral restoration, growing local food, cactus fences and solar roofs. The vision considers the characteristics of the different landscapes of Bonaire. Through maps and three-dimensional landscape visualisations, options for spatial planning are illustrated.

These nature inclusive measures interweave nature in all sectors
Impact and future perspective

The sketching session brought together the knowledge of island experts and decision-makers from nature, agriculture, recreation, culture and government. The enthusiasm of the participants and them sharing their experiences through (online) word of mouth  evoked a snowballing effect: a growing community of supporters wants to include ‘nature inclusiveness’ in their own ongoing initiatives. The vision developed for Bonaire is aimed to inspire other Small Island Development States all over the world.

  • Bonaire is a 300 km2 volcanic rock that surfaced from the ocean over 60 million years ago, surrounded by calcareous deposits of coral that grew on the volcanic rock
  • Since the 1960s Bonaire’s population quadrupled to 20.000 with the introduction of scuba dive tourism and immigration
  • Only direct tourism expenditure already accounts for one third of the Gross Domestic Product
  • 69% of the energy supply originates from burning fossil fuels, 30% is generated from wind turbines and 1% from solar panels
  • 99% of the food is imported