Ghent gets new nature reserve along the Leie river


A protected area of nearly 100 hectares has been created in Ghent, while the Ganzeveld near Aalter is also expanding

Happy birds

A new nature reserve has been created along the river Leie near Ghent. The decision merges two existing reserves and adds an additional parcel of land to create a protected area nearly 100 hectares in size.

Environment minister Joke Schauvliege has also announced the expansion of the Ganzeveld nature reserve near Aalter. In both cases, conservation agency Natuurpunt will receive additional resources to manage the reserves.

The new reserve near Ghent covers wetlands along the course of the Leie, an important habitat for migrating and resident waterfowl. This includes medium-sized species such as the little grebe, the gadwall and the water rail, along with smaller birds such as the bluethroat, the common grasshopper warbler and the Eurasian reed warbler.

The new reserve has been created by merging the Assels and Keuzemeersen reserves and adding 28.5 hectares of previously unprotected land. The final reserve will extend over 98.5 hectares, criss-crossed by cycling and walking paths.

Walking and cycle paths

The Ghent reserve joins others along the line of the river between Deinze and Ghent. Upstream are the Latem Meersen, the Heurnse Meersen and the Leiemeersen at Asten and Bachte. Downstream is the Bourgoyen-Ossenmeersen nature reserve.

Natuurpunt will receive an annual budget of €42,200 to manage the expanded reserve, and a one-off payment of €7,100 to prepare and start a management plan. This will include setting up a walking route through the Keuzemeersen and building a birdwatching hut.

Responding to the news on Twitter, Natuurpunt Gent said that it dreamt of creating one large nature reserve along the whole of the Leie.

Meanwhile, the Ganzeveld has increased by 10.7 hectares, so that it now extends over more than 38 hectares near Aalter. The reserve consists of woods with various varieties of trees, interspersed with open spaces covered in heather. This recalls the Ganzeveld’s heritage, since it was originally part of the vast Bulskampveld heath that existed here in the middle ages.

The woods are home to distinctive birds species, such as black woodpeckers and nuthatches, along with animals such as squirrels and deer. It also features impressive avenues of beech, which are an ideal habitat for several bat species.

For the Ganzeveld, Natuurpunt will receive an additional €7,300 to manage the reserve and a one-off payment of € 2,650 to prepare and launch a management plan.

Photo courtesy Toerisme Drongen