Restoration and managment of the fenland area "Damvallei"
The site "Damvallei" is a fenland-area, which arose by peat formation in a former meander of the lowland river Schelde. Peat digging during the Middle ages gave rise to about fifty, on average small sized pools, in which a unique Hydrocharition and Magnopotamion vegetation (3150) developped. Along their borders and on abandonned ponds, transition mires can be found in a well developed state. The valley grounds are mainly covered with vast areas of highly valuable grassland types (Nardetalia (6230), Eu-Molinion (6410) and Arrhenatherion (6510), which are fed by base-rich seepage water. Differences in height, nutrient content of the soil and soil type (clay, loam and sand are all present in the area) give rise to a profound diversification within these Annex I habitats. Scattered throughout the valley, large patches of Alnion glutinosa-incanae (91E0) can be found on often extremely wet soils. Ponds and ditches occupy populations of Cobitis taenia and Rhodeus sericeus.
Despite the very high conservation status of the site (the project area is included in the proposed Site of Community Interest (pSCI)), the unique value of these habitats is locally perished due to the detrimental effects of angling activities in the ponds, planting of poplar stands on the grasslands, alder carrs and around the ponds, abandonment or intensive use of grasslands, dumping of material and the introduction of non-native bird and plant species. The vicinity of the village Destelbergen and the city of Ghent, combined with the interest in parcels for land use (angling, poplar stands, horse riding, etc..), has led to high ground prices which made the conservation as such impossible for our NGO.
The main objective of this project is to:
- restore, develop, expand and preserve all Annex I habitats that occur in this area i.e. Hydrocharition and Magnopotamion (3150), Characeae-vegetations (3140), transition mires (7140), Arrhenatherion (6510), Eu-Molinion (6410), Nardetalia (6230) and Alnion-glutinosa-incanae (91E0).
- expand well suited habitats for Cobitis taenia and Rhodeus sericeus.
- guarantee the the existence of these habitats and species on a large scale in the future
Besides these objectives, which are directly related to the restoration and conservation of the Annex I habitats, we will also concentrate on the increase of nature appreciation by local people and include coöperative projects with local landusers (e.g. anglers, farmers). Former activities of our NGO have demonstrated that including social aspects is extremely fruitful during the course of the project.
Actions and means involved
- Acquisition of ± 40 ha of land in order to be able to realise the below mentioned actions and to obtain a coherent area that enables us to set up the large-scale managment necessary to restore and develop the different Annex I habitats towards a favourable status.
- The production of an integrated managment plan and managment scheme for the project area
- To perform a detailed hydrochemical research to investigate the absence of a natural vegetative recolonisation of the ponds. This research is additionally necessary to formulate scientifically considered instructions for pond restoration.
- Restore 4 ha of ponds by removing (1) introduced planktivourous and bethivourous fish species and (2) nutriënts by dredging the sapropelium layer of the ponds.
- Remove 15 ha of unnatural poplar stands in order to restore 5ha of unique Alnion glutinosa-incanae (91E0) and 10 ha of transition mires and nutrient poor grassland types.
- Restore 15 ha of old permanent grasslands by removing small trees and shrubs, milling stumps of former poplar stands and relevelling the soil on highly disturbed places. This is necessary to prepare the parcels for mowing. Removing dumped material and strongly nutrient enriched top layer of the soil will be conducted on some specified localities (1ha).
- Restore the original hydrological situation by dredging 500m of silted ditches
- Set up a haying equipment to ensure long term managment of the grasslands. On some localities, this will be conducted by local farmers.
- Construction and field marking of walking and boat trips, accompaigned by the development of a folder
- Fit up angling facilities in an unnatural lake to diminish angling pressure in peat ponds with a very high conservation value.
- Create an observation hut in cooperation with disadvantaged young people
- Towards the end of the project we wish to publish a book that deals with aspects of nature, history and origin of the site.
Large scale restoration and long-lasting conservation of a typical diversified landscape with: self establishing ponds, marshes, grasslands and forests that belong to the above mentioned habitat types and long-lasting conservation of the endangered fish species Rhodeus sericeus and Cobitis taenia. Involvement and cooperation of local people and stakeholders for the conservation of the site.