Le Wolvenberg est la seule réserve naturelle reconnue au sein du périphérique d’Anvers.
City : Flanders
Region : Flanders
Project by : Natuurpunt
Date d'inscription : Feb 2022
Wetlands4Cities is a project by Natuurpunt in collaboration with Ecover, manufacturer of a range of eco-friendly cleaning and other products. Ecover invited organisations and private persons to submit innovative ideas to help solve climate and water issues. To this aim Ecover set up a fund from extra sales generated by the pandemic crisis. There were almost 800 applicants from Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Wetlands4Cities is the Belgian winner.
The project aims to install five urban wetlands in Flanders and turn them into biodiversity hotspots, which act as natural climate buffers. Natuurpunt invites everyone to (re)discover these wetlands and their flora and fauna and to participate in a new citizen science project.
Wetlands are biodiversity hotspots where thousands of plant and animal species call home. They are natural sponges that offer numerous possibilities for combating climate change. These robust, natural climate buffers play a crucial role in retaining and capturing water, preventing water shortages, mitigating heat and reducing carbon in the atmosphere. In this way, we are also improving the quality of life in Flanders, particularly in the cities.
Who is involved?
The project involves private partners as well as NGOs and governments.
This project originates from a collaboration with private partner Ecover. Firstly, we work with our local Natuurpunt departments who, as managers and local experts, help monitor the implementations and developments in our natural climate buffers. In addition, we have an agreement with the NGO Join For Water that calls upon its public to support our nature sites.
On top of that, there is a large collaboration with public authorities ranging from local governments, regional landscapes and provinces to regional bodies such as the Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB), Flanders Environment Agency (VMM), ...
s part of the CurieuzeNeuzen science project, researching the effects of heat, drought and extremely wet weather on our nature reserves, we also cooperate with the University of Antwerp (UAntwerp).
At international level, a climate project was submitted under the LIFE programme of the European Commission. For communicative and educational purposes, we also work with Eurosite, the European network organisation for natural site managers.
Urban and peri-urban areas
In all Wetlands4Cities areas we aim to enhance, maintain and restore the existing vulnerable nature by rewetting. Urban wetlands should be more than a marsh, a pool of water or a water buffer. They are biodiversity hotspots where thousands of vegetation and wildlife species flourish. Wetlands are important migratory stops and breeding and hibernation habitats for birds. In this way, we contribute to the restoration and conservation of biodiversity, in particular in urban areas.
The natural climate buffers are part of the European Natura 2000 network, the Flemish Ecological Network (VEN, which comprises large natural units) and/or are located in stream valleys. The planned development and restoration activities therefore contribute significantly to strengthening and improving the connectivity and integrity of the ecological network in Flanders.
In the project areas (Uitkerkse Polder, Meirdam, Houzekouter, Hobokense Polder, Mechels Broek, Pinsbeemden, ...) that cover altogether more than 200 hectares, existing wetlands are expanded and restored. In Hobokense Polder, for example, we are going to develop 3 hectares of new wetland, and in Meirdam we will be rewetting more than 20 hectares. In Mechels Broek, which is more than 100 hectares in area, we aim to strengthen the drought preparedness by reconnecting the area with the surrounding watercourses (Vrouwvliet and Dijle) and naturalising the landscape. The creation of new biodiverse green and blue spaces enhances biodiversity and enables the restoration of several vegetation and wildlife species.
All Wetlands4cities areas are located within at most 5 to 10 kilometres of a medium-sized city (+/- 50,000 inhabitants). We ensure that the peri-urban nature of the selected cities (Antwerp, Mechelen, Bruges, Dendermonde, Hasselt, Aalst) is enhanced and, where possible, restored. By developing these natural climate buffers we therefore contribute to the (re)naturalisation of urban and peri-urban areas.
How are the criteria met?
Management practices are always adapted to the area. For example, mowing is limited (only when necessary) and excess grass cuttings are disposed of. There is no use of chemicals or biocidal products, and electric machines are used where possible (to reduce CO2 and particulate matter (PM) emissions). In Mechels Broek Galloway cattle is used for managing the area.
When managing and developing infrastructure we use natural materials where possible (wood, branches, ...) to create footpaths, information panels and/or fences
Management practices and landscape design are always adapted to the area. Not only do we try to respect the ecological features, we also try to strengthen them to enhance the existing wetlands. We do this by buffering extra water through adapted polder management, placing weirs or excavating historically elevated land. Major works always take place outside the spring breeding season to minimise disturbance. Wherever possible, decking paths are laid in order not to disturb the vulnerable soil, and parts are closed off to the general public in order to avoid damage and disturbance. As far as possible, we work with labelled products and materials (e.g. FSC labelled wood, organic oils) and we include this as a condition in our tenders (green procurement).Our management measures are optimally adapted to the environment, to respect the landscape values and integrate these wetlands into the landscape. To do so, we make use of historical maps (Ferraris, Vander Maelen) to study the area's history and restore it where possible. E.g. moats and canals in Meirdam or the restoration of the original water level in Uitkerkse Polder (Bruges). For this project we have defined three types of urban wetlands: wetlands located/influenced by the sea, anthropogenic wetlands (developed by humans), and natural wetlands where we are restoring an existing or historical wetland.All the plants we (re-)introduce in the areas are native plants (if available). Also, invasive alien species (giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, ...) are removed from the areas where possible.
Urban wetlands combine different functions and ecosystem services in a qualitative approach:
- Nature and biodiversity
- Climate and water (flooding, drought, heat stress)
- Social and societal issues
Enhancing/restoring wetlands has a positive effect on biodiversity:
Wetlands are among the most valuable ecosystems in Europe, characterised by unique, highly threatened habitats. They are biodiversity hotspots where thousands of vegetation and wildlife species flourish. Wetlands are important migratory stops and breeding and hibernation habitats for birds. By restoring those urban wetlands, we strengthen biodiversity in urban areas and preserve rare habitats and species in Flanders.
n addition, urban wetlands have a positive effect on the living environment of local residents and for the population in several ways:
rban and peri-urban areas suffer more from global warming. Measurements show a large difference between the temperature in cities and the countryside. This difference can sometimes reach 6-10 °C on a warm summer's evening. Wet nature and greenery have been proven to have a cooling effect. Wetlands can be a vital part of the blue-green network of a city providing a welcome cooling effect during heatwaves. Heatwaves have become more frequent in Flanders and lead to excess mortality over specific periods of time.
Ever more scientific research points to the importance of greenery and open spaces for the mental and physical well-being of humans. The creation and development of urban wetlands can contribute to a better health and well-being of the local residents. In addition to providing a cool place to hide on a hot summer's day, urban wetlands can also serve as a mental refuge for local residents where they can unwind and feel at peace. Wetlands can also help to improve air quality in urban areas, which is inadequate in many (big) cities.