Habitat restoration in Landschap De Liereman
In the north of Belgium, northeast of Oud-Turnhout and close to the Dutch border, there is a unique natural area for the Low Lands: Landschap De Liereman.
This area is characterised by high geomorphological diversity, which has led to several types of endangered heathland ecosystems, and the transitions between them, being present on scales of less than one kilometre: Rhynchosporion vegetations on peat bogs (7150), wet heath land (4010), nutrient-poor grassland (6230), sand dune and dune-heath vegetations (2310, 2330 and 4030), fen vegetations (3130), Cladietum marisci marsh (7210) and forests on wet and acid soils (9190, 91D0, 91E0).
Until recently, the Annex II species Luronium natans was present in this area, but its population disappeared due to inadequate management. There is, however, a large potential for the restoration of this increasingly rare species in Landschap De Liereman. Triturus cristatus and Cobitis taenia have also been sighted in this area.
The wide variety of heathland habitats is also reflected in the presence of several rare bird species from Annex I of the Bird Directive. Caprimulgus europaeus, Lullula arborea, Pernis apivorus and Dryocopus martius are breeding birds in the area. It is not surprising then that Landschap De Liereman as a whole has been protected as pSCI, with most of it under SPA protection.
Unfortunately, the presence of threatened habitats and species is largely confined to the current reserve, which at present forms about 34% of the project area and is managed by the NGO Natuurpunt.
The biggest threats for this Natura 2000 area are the fragmentation of the Annex I habitats (e.g. by holiday houses) and the consequent isolation of target species populations, the disappearance of valuable habitats as a result of large-scale afforestation and intensively worked agricultural fields, lack of adequate management, an unnatural hydrology, eutrophication of the Annex I habitats and lack of social support.
- Large-scale restoration and sustainable management of the special Annex I habitats in Landschap De Liereman, especially Corynephorus and Agrostis dune grasslands (2330), Ericion tetralicis (4010), psammofillous heathlands with Calluna and Genista species (2310), dry heathlands (4030), Nardetalia grasslands (6230) and Rhynchosporion depressions on peat substrate (7150).
- To establish sustainable long-term management for the very important Cladietum marisci vegetations (7210).
- Restoration of a mosaic of several types of heathland habitats (2310, 2330, 4010 and 4030) and their transitions, and forest vegetations of the types Betulion pubescentis (91D0), Alnion glutinosa-incanae (91E0) and Querco-betuletum (9190).
- Restoration of the aforementioned vegetations will have an important beneficial effect on the number of breeding pairs of Caprimulgus europaeus en Lullula arborea, and will lead to an increase of a wide range of nationally endangered species.
- Restoration of Littorelletalia fen vegetations (3130) with Luronium natans, which also make a good habitat for Triturus cristatus.
- using the possibilities for nature-oriented recreation, integrating volunteers into nature management and informing local people, visitors and authorities about the project.
- Large increase of the socio-economic potential of this Natura 2000 area
- Development of an integrated conservation plan, based on a detailed vegetation map and scientific research (ecohydrological study).
- Development of proper planning and monitoring processes for the first results.
- Acquisition of 75 ha in the project area to protect and connect the special habitats and to preserve sustainable populations of the target species.
- Large-scale restoration of the Annex I habitats in the project area, which, in turn, also form good habitats for several species of the Bird and Habitat Directive, by removing and restoring pine plantations, integrating sites with buildings, sod-cutting of grassy areas and the restoration of fens.
- Implementing a daily management scheme to retain the high quality of the Annex I habitats in the future.
- Development and realisation of a wide range of measures to promote the tourist and socioeconomical potential of the area, through information on tracks, the development of new tracks and information signs, designing the observation tower, the publication of several articles, the writing of a layman's report and several public activities.
- Organisation of several activities to exchange knowledge and experience with the local people, other Life projects and several authorities.
- Large-scale restoration and sustainable management of the higher mentioned Annex I habitats in Landschp De Liereman.
- Sustainable restoration and increase of populations of Annex I species such as Caprimulgus europaeus and Lullula arborea and creation of a better habitat for Triturus cristatus.
- Better visitor facilities and more information (brochures, flyers) about the area and a better socio-economic support of the Natura 2000 area and the Life project.