9. Brussels: The capital of Belgium and Europe where nature also is (a)LIFE
‘Brussels’ is derived from the Old Dutch ‘Bruocsella’, meaning ‘settlement in the marsh’. Nowadays, there is a relatively abundant presence of forest and green areas nearby the capital of Europe due to the presence of infertile sand hills. However, human development and transport infrastructure put a severe pressure on these green areas in and around Brussels so mitigation measures are most needed.
During this field trip we will first visit several natural bank defenses and fauna exit ladders at the canal Brussels-River Scheldt (Grimbergen, nearby Brussels). This part of the canal Brussels-River Scheldt is one of the oldest navigable canals of Europe. Nowadays it connects the port of Antwerp with the industrial zone in Charleroi which results in a dense navigation. A scientific monitoring has been executed to compare four different natural bank defense types in a pilot setting. Moreover, simple but effective fauna exit ladders were installed on another part of the canal.
Next, we will visit road verges at the ring road of Brussels (Strombeek-Bever). The ring road of Brussels is one of the busiest highways in Belgium. Since 2000, the verges along this ring road - sometimes with steep slopes - are managed ecologically. Both fauna and flora are taken into account. Moreover, special signboards attract the attention of road users to inform them about the ecological roadside management. A redesign of the ring road is planned in the near future, but actions will be taken to rescue rare plants (e.g. orchids) and reconnect or mitigate harsh fauna barriers.
Our third stop will be at the LIFE+ project ‘OZON’ that focusses on reconnecting the Sonian forest. The Sonian forest near the centre of Brussels is divided in several smaller entities which are separated by harsh barriers such as roads and railways. Between 2013 and 2018, the LIFE+ OZON project reconnects the natural habitats of the Sonian Forest by constructing or renovating 25 wildlife crossing structures. The most spectacular action in the project is a 60 m-wide wildlife bridge which has been constructed over the ring road and is partially covered with unique ‘animal graffiti’. Moreover, three new eco-tunnels have been constructed under the ring road and 18 existing tunnels and culverts were restored in order to allow a passage for animals. Finally, different amphibian tunnels and 15 monitoring cameras have been installed. The project is unique due to the collaboration between the three Belgian regions.
Time of departure: 7:30
Time of return: 18:30
Duration: 11:00 h
Transportation by: bus, foot
Key words: nature-friendly canal bank, fauna exits, ecological verge management,
wildlife tunnel, fencing
Organization: Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV) and Nature and Forest Agency (ANB), in
collaboration with Department of Environment and Spatial Development (DOMG),
Flemish Waterways plc and Research Institute Nature and Forest (INBO).