Record number of nature reserves listed for protection


Flanders increased its protected nature areas by 1,200 hectares last year, a record for the region

Special attention given to bird habitats

Flanders gained 1,200 hectares of listed nature reserve last year, according to environment minister Joke Schauvliege. The newly listed natural areas represent the largest annual increase ever recorded in Flanders, the minister said, bringing the total area of nature reserves to 16,318 hectares.

Some of the natural areas have been added to the list for the first time, while other areas are simply extensions to existing reserves. The largest new area is the 130-hectare Lovenhoek nature reserve (pictured), which straddles the municipalities of Vorselaar and Zandhoven in the Kempen region of Antwerp province. This has been listed by the government because of its “rich biodiversity”, which supports more than 1,500 rare species. 

The list also includes the ancient Flemish wetlands known as Opstalvallei in Stabroek where 200 different birds can be seen as well as the Abeek Valley on the Kempen uplands, which is described in the government report as “a hotspot for insects and spiders”.

The new list includes the Blankaart wetlands near Diksmuide, which provide an ideal habitat for migrating birds. The town walls of Damme, near Bruges, have also been put on the list because the reeds that grow in the shallow moat provide an excellent natural habitat for several species of rare birds. 

The Flemish nature reserves are eligible for special grants because of their ecological importance. The funding goes to ensure that they are protected and wherever possible open to the public.

“Nature reserves form the backbone of our natural heritage,” Schauvliege said. “That is why I have made it a priority in 2013 and 2014 to catch up on the backlog.”

The minister said that she hopes to list a further 1,500 hectares in 2014.  

Flanders increased its protected nature areas by 1,200 hectares last year.

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