Laatste update: 31/03/2014
The Bulskampveld, Maldegemveld and other open landscapes of mixed heahtlands, poor grasslands, forests and ponds, covered large areas of West and East Flanders until the middle of the 19th Century.
In the 19th Century, this landscape was cleared to make way for agriculture. Some of the land developed naturally into valuable oak and birch forests but a large part was planted with conifers. Small remnants of heath and Nardus grassland can now only be found along forest lanes, in non-“developed” areas, but most of these areas are not protected nor managed properly.
The main raison why the woods and heaths in the sandy areas of eastern Flanders were given pSCI status is the presence of intermediate Atlantic heath and scrub. These heath habitats are quite exceptional in phytogeographic terms because they form the north-eastern extremity of the geographical distribution of many Altantic plant species.
Among these habitats, the most important are Atlantic wet heath (4010), European dry heaths (4030) and the priority habitat species-rich Nardus graslandss (6230+), Corynephorus and Agrostis dune grasslands (2330) and psammofillous heathlands with Calluna and Genista species (2310). Also oligothophic to mesotrophic fen-habitats with Nanocyperetalia (3130) vegetations are present in the project area. Near wet heath and species-rich poor grassland even fragments of EU-Molinion- (6410) and Rhynchosporion (7150)-habitats do occur.
Without doubt, all these habitats are rare and threatened in the whole of the European Union.
The heathland habitats in the project area always have been directly related to woodland. Most important are Atlantic acidophilous beech-oak forests (9120), old acidophilous oak woods on sandy plains (9190) and on valley grounds also the priority habitat Alnion glutinosa-incanae (91E0+).
The wide variety of Annex I habitats is also reflected in the presence of several rare Annex-species from the EU Habitat and Bird Directive. For example, there are different species of bats (Annex II and IV of the Habitat Directive), amphibians including Rana lessonae (Annex IV Habitat Directive), and breeding populations of Caprimulgus europaeus, Lullula arborea, Pernis apivorus and Dryocopus martius (all Annex I-species of the Bird Directive).
Effective protection of the heathland habitats is made difficult by the fact that the viability of the seed bank is rapidly deteriorating after years in the ground under trees or in fields. Other threats that are harming the prospects for the area’s recovery are the isolation and the fragmentation of the habitats and associated plant and fauna species, the eutrophication by the very high levels of atmosptheric depositions in this region, the implant of mainly larch and pine plantations, the intensification of the land-use (both farm land and woodland), an unnatural hydrology, the presence of invasive exotic plant species and improper management.
The main objective of this project is:
- to restore, develop, expand and preserve the Intermediate Atlantic type of the following Annex I-habitats in the project area: Atlantic wet heath (4010), European dry heaths (4030) and the priority habitat species-rich Nardus graslands (6230+), Corynephorus and Agrostis dune grasslands (2330), psammofillous heathlands with Calluna and Genista species (2310) and also the restoration of fen habitats (Nanocyperetalia 3130).
- to restore and to connect a mosaic of these unique heathland habitats (4010, 4030, 6230+, 2330, 2310 in combination to several woodland-habitats (Atlantic acidophilous beech-oak forests (9120), old acidophilous oak woods on sandy plains (9190), and locally Alnion glutinosa-incanae (priority habitat 91E0+))
- to increase the quality of woodland habitats (9190, 9120, priority habitat 91E0+)
For these habitats, we also want to establish a sustainable grazing management and mechanical management with a large involvement of local volunteers.
The large scale restoration of these Annex I habitats in the project area has to led to an increasement of populations of target Annex-species of the EU Habitat and Bird Directive, such as Lullula arborea and Caprimulgus europaeus.
Besides these objectives, which have a direct relation to the restoration of the Annex I habitats, we will also increase the socio-economic potential of this Natura 2000 area, optimise 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
- Development of integrated conservation plans for the acquired land, based on a detailed vegetation map and field research, management schemes for daily restoration actions and at the end of the project an ‘after LIFE conversation plan’ which highlights the long term perspectives.
- Monitoring of the first results.
- The evaluation and follow-up of the “Rescue plan” Intermediate Atlantic Heathland relics as a result of LIFE-project “Intermediate Atlantic heathlands in the Flanders” (1999 – 2003, Life99 NAT/B/006298).
- Acquisition of 40 ha in the project area to start large scale habitat restoration through specific short-term management, to protect and connect the target habitats, to preserve the favourable conservation status of these Annex I habitats and to preserve sustainable populations of the target species.
- Large-scale restoration (+/- 200 ha) of the target Annex I habitats in the project area, - especially on the newly acquired land - which, in turn, also forms good habitat for several species of the Bird and Habitat Directive, by removing softwood and sod-cutting on cleared larch and pine plantations for the restoration of all heath types and associated habitats (25 ha), by removing the nutrient rich top soil and restoration of the original soil profile of former agricultural land (12 ha), by restoration and connecting a mosaic of heath- and woodland habitats (45 ha), by restoration of several fen habitats, by removing exotic invasive species in heathland- and woodlandhabitats (65 ha), by fencing circa 70 ha (circa 14 km) to start grazing management in different prior subsites, and by purchasing the necessary equipment to restore and manage the heathland vegetations, especially by preserving large equipment for local volunteers.
- Development and realisation of a wide range of measures to promote the tourist and socio-economical potentiel of the area and to create a larger support for Natura 2000 and this LIFE-project through the publication of leaflets, door-to-door information to the surrounding households, information on tracks, the development of new tracks, the writing of a layman’s report, the publication of several articles in membership magazines and scientific journals 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.
- Large-scale restoration and sustainable management of the following Annex I habitats: Atlantic wet heath (4010), European dry heaths (4030) and the priority habitat species-rich Nardus graslandss (6230+), Corynephorus and Agrostis dune grasslands (2330), psammofillous heathlands with Calluna and Genista species (2310) in the project area.
- Increase in the quality of woodland habitats: Atlantic acidophilous beech-oak forests (9120) and old acidophilous oak woods on sandy plains (9190), priority habitat Alnion glutinosa-incanae (91E0+).
- The implementation of this project will also be beneficial for breeding populations of several regionally threatened bird species which are included in Annex I of the EU-Bird Directive such as Lullula arborea and Caprimulgus europaeus.
- Better visitor facilities and more information (brochures, leaflets, flyers) about the area, a better socio-economic support and involvement of local people and other stakeholders (also other landmanagers) of the Natura 2000 area and the LIFE-project.