The project of the month: Restoring an alluvial forest in Flanders, Belgium
This wetland restoration project takes place on a hunter’s 30 ha landholding in Flanders (Belgium). The site forms part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under Natura 2000 and the objective is it to restore an Annex I habitat; an alluvial forest with Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).
Between 2012 and 2013, with the financial support of Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos (Agency for Nature and Forest) and Natura 2000 subsidies combined with hunters’ assistance in the field, several restoration actions have been put in place. The project had three main management objectives:
- Control of invasive alien plants;
- Creation of a Newt friendly-habitat;
- Ecological reforestation of the site
Invasive alien plants as Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) and Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) were managed so that their expansion was contained. To prevent their recolonisation, Mr. Dries Claes, the landowner, will continue managing these plants for several years.
Three ponds were dug to form a more diverse habitat for amphibians such as the Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus), which is a pollution-sensitive species.
The Claes family is aware that the success of the project will need time. In order to reach their goal of creating a sustainable alluvial forest ecosystem, the forest has to pass by several phases combined with soil regeneration. This process could happen naturally, however, they decided to assist by planting native tree species, such as the native Common Cherry (Prunus padus). The indicator for sustainable forest management in this case is having less than 10% of alien species, while keeping 4% of dead wood.
After one year of management, 10,000 trees were planted and the ponds are suitable for Newt and its potential prey. However, the work does not end there: this passionate landowner is actively advocating for this type of management to other landowners and environment organisations.
Project Manager Natura 2000 Hubertus Vereniging Vlaanderen