Protection through acquisition and management of the last calcareous mires in Belgium

Reference: LIFE95 NAT/B/000435 | Acronym:

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

As in many parts of Europe, calcareous mires have become very rare in Belgium. These semi-natural wetlands were traditionally managed as extensive farmland, usually as hay meadows, but during recent decades farmers have abandoned such hay meadows. Subsequently the wetlands were drained and/or used for more intensive forms of farming, or were affected by increased fertiliser use in their vicinity. Increasing recreational pressure and residential building have also taken their toll.
What remains of the many former sites in Belgium are found in the Haute-Semois valley near Arlon, in lowlands with calcareous substrata (Torfbroek near Brussels) and in parts of the Kempen fed by seepage water from the Albert Canal which carries calcareous water from the Meuse from Liège to Antwerp.
The project area covered five sub-sites: four in Flanders - Torfbroek, Langdonken, Goor, Buitengoor; and one in Wallonia - Haute Semois. At the start of the project, some of the sites were SPAs, and all were listed as candidate SACs under the Habitats Directive. They contained habitats and species on Annex II of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), such as the fen orchid (Liparis loeselii) and the aquatic plant floating water-plantain (Luronium natans).


OBJECTIVES

The main objective of the project was to provide a big impetus towards the conservation of the last surviving calcareous fens in Belgium by establishing a network of protected alkaline fens. This was to be achieved through land acquisition, habitat improvement, the implementation of suitable land management practices and increased public awareness of their value.
The project planned to collate data for the development of site-specific management plans seeking optimal integration of these sites in the socio-economic and land-use context of the districts concerned. The beneficiary aimed to purchase around 110 ha of land in five sites - 30 ha in Flanders and 80 ha in Wallonia - to enable the implementation of habitat restoration and management actions according to the management plans.


RESULTS

Overall, the measures to achieve the project’s objectives were successfully carried out. Whereas small fragmented and degraded calcareous mires were present at the onset of the project, it created far larger buffer and core zones of the target habitat. The acquisition and restoration of these mires was crucial to the long-term preservation prospects of these habitats.
The project successfully collated data and elaborated management plans for all five sub-sites targeted by the project. The beneficiary was able to purchase 109.7 ha despite facing considerably higher prices than anticipated. The division between sites was not as originally foreseen: 88 ha in Flanders, 41.7 ha in Wallonia . Acquisition was followed by a designation process  for the newly acquired mires - although it was not completed for all sites by the end of the project.
To restore the important habitats, the project removed trees and shrubs, cleared away undesirable buildings, raised water levels, removed topsoil and cleared ponds on the five project sites. Habitat management regimes of mowing and/or grazing were also implemented by volunteers and labourers. In Wallonia, management contracts were agreed with neighbouring farmers to mow or graze 22 ha of the sub-site.
To improve public awareness of these vulnerable habitats, the project published and distributed folders at the five sub-sites, erected information panels and got articles published in the local press in both linguistic regions.Overall, the measures to achieve the project’s objectives were successfully carried out. Whereas small fragmented and degraded calcareous mires were present at the onset of the project, it created far larger buffer and core zones of the target habitat. The acquisition and restoration of these mires was crucial to the long-term preservation prospects of these habitats.
The project successfully collated data and elaborated management plans for all five sub-sites targeted by the project. The beneficiary was able to purchase 109.7 ha despite facing considerably higher prices than anticipated. The division between sites was not as originally foreseen: 88 ha in Flanders, 41.7 ha in Wallonia . Acquisition was followed by a designation process  for the newly acquired mires - although it was not completed for all sites by the end of the project.
To restore the important habitats, the project removed trees and shrubs, cleared away undesirable buildings, raised water levels, removed topsoil and cleared ponds on the five project sites. Habitat management regimes of mowing and/or grazing were also implemented by volunteers and labourers. In Wallonia, management contracts were agreed with neighbouring farmers to mow or graze 22 ha of the sub-site.
To improve public awareness of these vulnerable habitats, the project published and distributed folders at the five sub-sites, erected information panels and got articles published in the local press in both linguistic regions.

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE95 NAT/B/000435
Acronym:
Start Date: 01/04/1995
End Date: 31/03/1998
Total Budget: 858,000 €
EU Contribution: 429,000 €
Project Location:

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: Réserves Naturelles et Ornithologiques de Belgique (RNOB) - Belgische Natuur - en Vogelreservaten vzw (BNVR)
Legal Status: OTHER
Address: Kon. St.-Mariastraat 105, 1030, BRUSSEL, België - Belgique
Contact Person:
Email:
Tel:
Website:


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Bogs and Mires

KEYWORDS

  • wetland
  • land purchase
  • management plan
  • restoration measure
  • environmental impact of agriculture
  • protected area

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

TARGET HABITAT TYPES

  • 02 - Specific (i.e.for technical reasons or specific issue)

SPECIES

  • Liparis loeselii
  • Luronium natans

NATURA 2000 SITES

Type Code Name
SCI BE2100040 Bovenloop van de Grote Nete met Zammelsbroek, Langdonken en Goor. (DEPRECATED)
SCI BE2400010 Valleigebied tussen Melsbroek, Kampenhout, Kortemberg en Veltem. (DEPRECATED)
SCI BE34057B0 Marais de la Haute-Semois et Bois de Heinsch (Arlon; Attert; Etalle; Habay) (DEPRECATED)

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
Réserves Naturelles et Ornithologiques de Belgique (RNOB) - Belgische Natuur - en Vogelreservaten vzw (BNVR) Coordinator