Belgium has some beautiful, but unfortunately also endangered, open landscape types: ‘Inland dunes with open Corynephorus and Agrostis grasslands’ (2330), ‘European dry heaths’ (4030), ‘Species-rich Nardus grasslands, on silicious substrates in mountain areas (and submountain areas in Continental Europe)’ (6230*) and ‘Sub-Pannonic steppic grasslands’ (6410). These landscapes are under pressure from wood colonisation, invasive species and the stabilisation of sandy substrates. Restoration measures as well as increasing surface areas are badly needed to ensure the conservation of the typical species of these habitats.
During the first two years of the LIFE BNIP (2016 and 2017), project leaders from Natagora and DEMNA, LIFE partners, travelled through the Atlantic region of Wallonia, mainly the sandy Brabant and the Hennuyère Campine. On the agenda: update the mapping and assess the conservation status of the 4 threatened habitats of Community interest: 2330, 4030, 6230*, 6410. An action plan was drafted for each of these habitats, listing protection and restoration measures to improve their conservation status in the Atlantic area.
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© J. Taymans
In this framework, several pilot restorations were carried out, both in Hainaut and in Walloon Brabant. The 4 habitats concerned are mostly interrelated and grouped restoration measures have been taken for these habitats, in the same area.
Several restoration projects have also been carried out on some 30 characteristic sites, consisting of both recognised nature reserves and state nature reserves, municipal land or even private land. These include the Champtaine in Chaumont-Gistoux, the sandpit Nethen in Grez-Doiceau, the Ermitage in Braine-le-Château, the Val de Coeurcq in Tubize, the Bois de la Houssière in Braine-le-Comte and the Lande du Happart in Saint-Ghislain.
This work consisted of deforestation, clearing shrubs, removing exotic plants, grass clippings and logs, milling stumps and setting up grazing fences to ensure recurrent management. Depending on opportunities, hay was also spread, ponds dug, cliffs created for riparian swallows, hedges and orchards planted and educational signs placed. Most of this work was funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD fund) under the Walloon Rural Development Programme.
Thus, a total of 16 hectares of dry heaths (4030), 16 hectares of inland dunes (2330), 4 hectares of species-rich Nardus grasslands (6230*) and 2 hectares of Sub-Pannonic steppic grasslands (6410) were restored under the LIFE BNIP. The experience gained ensures that other sites can also be restored after LIFE BNIP, thanks to the use of complementary funds.
Moreover, the project will also enable the creation of 4 new nature reserves in Walloon Brabant.
© J. Taymans