Action Plan for the Aquatic Environment III 2005-2009

Since 1985 a number of actions plans has been implemented in Denmark to reduce nitrate leaching. The regulatory measures applied include nutrient-related measures e.g. mandatory fertilizer plans and improved utilization of nitrogen in manure as well as area-related measures such as e.g. wetlands and afforestation.

In 1987 the Danish parliament agreed on the first Action Plan for the Aquatic Environment I and in 1998 on the APAE II, which was recognised as the implementation of the Nitrates Directive as announced by the Commission in November 1998.

The final evaluation of the APAE II in December 2003 showed that the measures already implemented in addition to the measures already agreed upon and financed would result in a reduction of the total nitrogen discharges from agriculture of around 149,000 tonnes N per year. This corresponds to a reduction of around 48% of the calculated 311,000 tonnes N in 1985.


The following APAE III was submitted as the next Nitrate Action Programme and did run from 2004-2015 with planned midterm evaluations in 2008 and 2011 following article 5 in the Nitrates Directive. The APAE III encompasses broad efforts to reduce agricultural impacts on the aquatic environment and nature, and includes a stronger focus on surplus phosphor in agriculture, which must be halved, compared to 37,700 tonnes P in 2001/2002, with 2015 as the target year. For nitrogen the aim was to reduce leaching from agriculture by a minimum of 13% by 2015 compared to 2003.

The APAE III consisted of:

  • A reduction of the excess phosphorous of 25% by 2009 will be achieved a.o. through a tax of DKK 4 per kg of mineral phosphorous in feed.
  • The establishment of 50,000 hectares of 10-metre crop-free buffer zones along rivers and lakes. The buffer zones will be established by voluntary transfers of set-aside land along lakes and rivers.
  • A reduction of the nitrogen leaching from agriculture has to be reduced by a minimum of 13% by 2015 compared to 2003. The structural development, including setting aside land, improved feed utilisation, wetlands and afforestation will contribute to reduce nitrogen leaching.
  • The percent of catch crop requirements will be tightened corresponding to 10% of the catch crop basis for farms using livestock manure, corresponding to less than 0.8 LU/ha, and 14% for farms using livestock manure, corresponding to more than 0.8 LU/ha.
  • A general tightening of requirements for utilisation rate of nitrogen in livestock manure with 4.5-5 percentage concurrently points  with research creating a basis for this.
  • The norm reduction will be subject to 10% below the management economical optimum, as laid down in the Action Plan for the Aquatic Environment II, but the total nitrogen quota will not be allowed to exceed the 2003/2004 quota after adjustments for the effect of crop displacement.
  • With a view to protect ammonia-sensitive habitats designation of 300-metre buffer zones around all raised bogs, all lobelia lakes, all – to start with - heaths larger than 10 hectares, and all endangered and low-nutrient dry grassland larger than 2.5 hectares, as well as all endangered heaths, dry grassland, and other particular vulnerable types of natural habitat in the Natura 2000 sites.

In 2008 the APAE III was midterm evaluated both on the results, adequacy of tools and economic aspects to ensure that activities and expected results are achieved. The midterm evaluation did not show any significant decrease in the nitrate leaching during 2003-2007 and the conclusions were that the implementation of measures and their effect have not been as anticipated.

In 2009 the Danish government launched the Green Growth Agreement – a plan that  ensures better conditions for the nature and environment while allowing agriculture to develop. The Green Growth Agreement also deals with the problems formerly encountered in achieving expected goals in the APAE III. As the Green Growth Agreement is much broader than the APAEs, a Danish Nitrate Actions Programme is composed specifying the elements of the implementation of the Nitrates Directive.