LIFE Oostkustpolders is situated in pSCI area in a circle of about 20 km around Brugge in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. With this LIFE project, Natuurpunt Beheer vzw wishes to tackle the threats influencing in a negative way the unique habitats and species of the Habitats Directive which are characteristic for these grasslands on a integrated way.

The central objective of this Life project is the large scale restoration of typical grassland habitats in the polders of the Belgian east coast region. These are the Belgian core-areas for inland saline habitats and important breeding and wintering territory for many ducks, geese and waders.

The 2 most important habitats (1310 Salicornia and other annuals colonizing mud and sand and 1330 Atlantic salt meadows Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritima) form a patchy network throughout the project area. Due to their size and isolation, patches are very vulnerable to further degradation. One of the two major project objectives is to upgrade both the quality and quantity of these saline habitats.

At present, grassland birds are highly endangered in Europe. Severe population decline during the past decades led to their inclusion on national red lists. Hence, this LIFE project focuses on these grassland birds (both breeding and wintering species). Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is the most important breeding species. Furthermore, the project area is an important wintering site for species like Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus), Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) and Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope). Annually, 60 to 80% of the Spitsbergen population of Pink-footed Goose winters here. These primary target-species act as umbrella species for others like Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) and Garganey (Anas querquedula).

The grassland restoration focuses mainly on restoration of the typical micro-relief and on hydrological optimization within the project area. 

Besides the grassland and hydrological restoration suitable nesting sites will be created for the Western Marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus) because the area is used for foraging by Western Marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus), but suitable nesting sites seem to be lacking.

Direct ecological restoration in the project:

  • We will purchase degraded land in the project area to start large scale habitat restoration, to protect and connect target habitats, to establish a favorable conservation status of targeted habitats and to develop sufficiently large populations of the target species to allow for a sustainable long-term survival. Because of the high fragmentation of the target habitats, restoration is not possible without large scale land acquisition.
  • Restoration of 210 ha grassland, of which 70 ha with saline habitats, by restoring the typical micro relief of these pastures and meadows.
  • Creation of an extra 5,5 ha of core saline habitat by removing the upper soil layer.
  • Improved grazing regimes by placing 47 km of fences.
  • Hydrological optimization by placing three windmill-driven water pumps and nine weirs.
  • Creation of three new suitable nesting sites for Western Marsh-harrier.

Other actions in the project:

  • Writing detailed plans for efficient and effective habitat restoration.
  • Monitoring of saline habitats and grassland birds in the target areas
  • Improved local support and involvement by informing of and communicating with the local community, press and politicians.