The central objective of the Life+ proposal is the large scale restoration of all the Annex I habitats in the Hageland region. To realise this, we propose the following concrete objectives:

  • Significant extension of the area well-developed Molinia-meadows (6410) en Arrhenatherion grasslands (6510) through large-scale habitat restoration on a surface of 30 ha!
  • Extension of the area and improvement of the quality of the species rich transition mires (7140) and the aquatic habitat Magnopotamium (3150) Target is to extend the surface of these both habitats with 2,5 ha. The extension of the surface of both habitats should lead to the return of the bittern as breeding bird in the project area.
  • Extension of the area and improvement of the quality of the alluvial forests and alder-ash woods (91E0). The re-establishment of 25 ha of wet forest-types will be realized by the removal of (poplar) plantations.
  • Significant extension of all heath land habitats, notably Nardus-grasslands (6230) European dry heaths (4030), inland dunes with open Corynephorus- and Agrostis-grasslands (2330) and inland dunes (2310). At present only few hectars remains in the two pSCI’s. This Life+ proposal aims to extend the area with 10 ha.
  • The removal of invasive alien species on a large scale, especially in the alluvial forests and ash-alder woods.
  • With a specific action we will bring the populations of two Annex II species (Triturus cristatus and Luronium natans) into a more favourable conservation status.

For all these Annex I habitats, we aim to initiate a sustainable mechanical and grazing management with a large involvement of the local volunteer management teams of Natuurpunt and the local inhabitants.

The large scale restoration of these Annex I habitats in the project area will also benefit the populations of target Annex I species of the Bird Directive, such as Botaurus stellaris, Circus aeruginosus, Porzana porzana and Luscinia svecica.

Due to its location in the densely populated Flemish region, the project area has a very important role to play for the people. A significant increase of the socio-economic potential of this Natura 2000 area, using optimally the possibilities for nature-oriented recreation, integrating volunteers into nature management and informing local people and visitors about the project and building new partnerships as an example of good practice.

Actions and means involved

Preparatory actions

  • Two (rather limited) preparatory studies are essential to understand the hydrology and the topography of the project area, so that we can restore the target habitats (especially Nardus-grasslands (6230) and Magnopotamion (3150)) in an efficient and durable way. Furthermore, the following preparatory actions are foreseen:
  • Development of integrated conservations plans for the acquired land, based on a detailed vegetation map and field research.
  • Realisation of preparatory field researches to determine the occurrence of soil pollution and/or the presence of phosphor in the soil (which prevent the re-establishment of certain Annex I habitats).
  • Writing of detailed plans for efficient and effective habitat restoration.

Land purchase
The acquisition of 100 ha in the project area to start large scale habitat restoration by specific short-term management, to protect and connect the target habitats, to establish the favourable conservation status of these Annex I habitats and to develop populations of the target species who are sufficiently large. Without acquisition, the restoration of the Annex I habitats in the pSCI is not possible, due to the high fragmentation of the habitats

Concrete conservation actions

  • Large-scale restoration (ca. 120 116 ha) of the target Annex I habitats in the project area, especially on the land acquired in this project, which, in turn also form good habitats for several species of the Habitat and Bird Directives.
  • This 116ha is achieved by means of the following, non-overlapping concrete actions:
  • Restoration of 30 hectares of Molinia-meadows (6410) and Arrhenatherion (6510) in those sites who have the best potentials.
  • Restoration of 2,5 hectares of Transition mires trough the removal of young trees and bushes and the re-establishment of a recurrent mowing scheme.
  • Restoration of 2,5 hectares aquatic habitat by removing trees, the restoration of natural banks and – if necessary – the removal of silt.
  • Removal of pine plantations and sod-cutting of 10 hectares for the restoration of Nardus-grassland and different heathland types.
  • Large scale restoration of alluvial forests by the removal of (poplar) plantations (25 ha).
  • Removal of invasive alien species in alluvial forests, alder-ash woods, mesophile forests and heath land habitats (20 ha).
  • To realise new fencing on a surface of 30 ha in the project area, which enables to start up an appropriate grazing management (which probably overlaps with 5 hectares for the restoration of Nardus grassland and different heathland types).
  • To create 10 small-scale compost units, so we can turn valueless management residues into economic valuable compost.

Public awareness and dissemination of results

  • Development and realisation of a wide range of measures to create a larger support for Natura 2000, to promote the tourist and socio-economical potentiel of the area and to this LIFE +project by the publication of leaflets, information for the general public, new information panels, the development of new tracks, the writing of a layman’s report, the publication of several articles in membership magazines and the organisation of public activities.
  • Organisation of several activities to exchange knowledge and experience with the local people and several authorities, networking with other Life projects. Moreover, we wish to exchange not only technical experience about habitat restoration, but to promote our approach with involvement of local people and volunteers as well.
  • It is evident that we will monitor the results of our actions with a well-structured monitoring scheme. At the end of the project, an ‘after Life conservation plan’ shall focus on the long term perspectives for the pSCI area, to prevent the loss of all our efforts during this Life-project.

Expected results

  • Large-scale restoration and sustainable management of the following Annex I habitats:Alluvial forests and alder-ash woods (91E0+), Nardus-grasslands (6230) Molinia-meadows (6410), Arrhenatherion grasslands (6510), transition mires (7140), Magnopotamium or Hydrocharition (3150) hydrophylous tall herb fringe communities (6430), European dry heaths (4030), inland dunes with open Corynephorus- and Agrostis-grasslands (2330) and dry sand heaths with Calluna (2310)
  • Halting the loss of biodiversity in the project area, a result from the extreme habitat fragmentation in the pSCI. The proposed extension of all Annex I habitats should be sufficient to ensure a sustainable re-establishment and protection of the target habitats and species. Moreover, we expect the re-establishment of typical species yet extinct.
  • Restoration of habitats shall increase the populations of Annex I species of the Bird Directive such as Botaurus stellaris, Circus aeruginosus, Porzana porzana and Luscinia svecica, as well as species of Annex II en IV Habitat Directive such as Luronium natans and Triturus cristatus.
  • Better visitor facilities and mMore information (brochures, leaflets, flyers) about the area, a better socio-economic support and involvement of local people and other stakeholders (also other land managers) of the Natura 2000 area and the Life+ project.