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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Belgium

Nature protection and biodiversity (Belgium)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Nature and biodiversity Nature and biodiversity
more info
NFP-Belgium
Organisation name
NFP-Belgium
Reporting country
Belgium
Organisation website
Organisation website
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Last updated
22 Dec 2010
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CC By 2.5
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NFP-Belgium
Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Biodiversity in Belgium is under tremendous pressure and could have an impact on human health and the productivity of the rural areas.

Biodiversity in Belgium is under tremendous pressure as a result of human activities. This pressure is especially high to the north of the Sambre and Meuse rivers, where the human population density is exceptionally high. Besides eutrophication, acidification, climate change and invasive alien species, land conversion1 poses a big threat to biodiversity. Construction and densification of the transport infrastructure are the main drivers behind the increased fragmentation of the natural spaces. Due to this fragmentation, species that are unable to adapt to climate change are also incapable of moving to a more suitable habitat through natural dispersion. It is feared that as individual species start disappearing, the quality of larger parts of the ecosystem will decline. This could have impacts on human health and well-being and the agricultural productivity of rural areas in Belgium, even though considerable uncertainties on the topic remain.

 


1 See commonality section landuse

 

The state and impacts

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original

The state of biodiversity in Belgium is described with indicators on species abundance and detailed with figures on the conservation status of species of European interest for the national (where available) as well as the regional levels. Trends are given for some bird indices (e.g. the European common bird index). The state of biodiversity is always closely connected to the quality and availability of habitat, hence the inclusion of several descriptive figures on the progress of their conservation to conclude the section.

 

Key message

A great number of species in Belgium are critically endangered especially amongst the reptiles, amphibians and butterflies.

Regarding terrestrial biodiversity, a great percentage of reptiles (71 %), amphibians (60 %) and butterflies (60 %) are currently 'critically endangered'1. For mammals (36 %), birds (25 %), fish (23 %) and vascular plants (29 %), the situation is slightly better. More worrying is the situation for dragonflies and damselflies where 48 % of the species analysed are critically endangered. Terrestrial biodiversity in Belgium is monitored and managed on a regional level. More precise data are therefore given below per region.

Concerning marine environment, there has been a continuous decline in the number of fish species and crustaceans in the Belgian part of the North Sea, primarily as a result of overfishing2.

The trend of the marine bird species occurring in the Belgian part of the North Sea and listed in annex I of the EU Birds Directive is as follows: the populations of little tern (Sterna minor) is in decline while the populations of Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis) and common tern (Sterna hirundo) are stable or fluctuating3. Several reports describe the international importance of the Belgian part of the North Sea for marine bird species.

The trend for marine mammals is less clear, although it is certain that most species remain threatened. Article 17 reporting, in application of the Habitats Directive, mentions positive trends for the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) (primarily due to a shift of the population in the North Sea), the common seal (Phoca vitulina) and the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus)4.

 


1 Directorate-general Statistics and Economic information of Belgium (2008): p36 – percentages given only reflect the situation of the species which were analysed.

2 http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/

3 http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/

4 National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p13.

 

Key message

The conservation status of only a small percentage of the species occurring in the Flemish Region has been documented. From what we know the situation is especially worrying for butterflies where more than 50% of the species documented are on the Flemish Red List.

Figures

Figure 1. Species status in the Flemish Region in 2008

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=657
Figure 1. Species status in the Flemish Region in 2008
Fullscreen image Original link

Figure 1 illustrates the species status in the Flemish Region. The conservation status of 3 451 of the species (9 % of the total) occurring in Flanders has currently been documented. Knowledge on the status of Flemish biodiversity is strongly biased toward vertebrates and vascular plants5. From the species assessed, 6 % have recently become regionally extinct and 29 % have been listed as 'critically endangered', 'endangered' or 'vulnerable' so-called Red List species. Butterflies are among the most affected with 25 % extinct and 33 % on the Flemish Red List. Empidids (no extinctions and 15 % on the Red List) and Dolichopodids (9 % extinct and 18 % on the Flemish Red List) prove to be the most robust species groups.

 


Figures

Figure 7: Conservation status of habitats of European interest in the Flemish Region

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=694%2520
Figure 7: Conservation status of habitats of European interest in the Flemish Region
Fullscreen image Original link

Three-quarters of the 37 habitats have an unfavourable (bad) conservation status and 15 % (seven habitats) have an inadequate conservation status. The latter group comprises two peat and marsh habitats, one heathland, two grassland and two woodland habitats. Consequently, only two habitats have a favourable conservation status, these being one saline habitat (Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide) and one coastal dune habitat (Dunes with Sea Buckthorn). All aquatic habitats are of a unfavourable (bad) conservation status. Water and air pollution pose the most serious threats for most habitats9.

 


9 Research Institute for Nature and Forest (2008), p15. Also available at: http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=694

Key message

In Wallonia, the species conservation status is poor for roughly 40% of the species which were monitored.

Figures

In Wallonia, the species conservation status (see Figure 4.1) is poor for roughly 2/5 of the species in the monitored groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, dragonflies, butterflies, ladybirds, beetles, vascular plants and non-vascular cryptogamous plants). Combining all the groups, 31 % of the species which have been studied run the risk of disappearing. Furthermore, nearly 9 % have already disappeared. Among bats, fish, reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies (odonata), more than half of species analysed are in an unfavourable situation.

Update data 2009 (French only)

 

Figures

Figure 5. Estimate of the species status in the Brussels Capital Region

None
Data source
http://www.bruxellesenvironnement.be/etatdelenvironnement
Figure 5. Estimate of the species status in the Brussels Capital Region
Fullscreen image Original link

In the Brussels-Capital Region, the species status is highlighted in Figure 5. It should be stressed that considering the limited size of the Brussels Region (161 km2) and its urban character, it is not possible to strictly apply the IUCN’s criteria to determine the conservation status of the various species. Therefore, the data presented below constitute an estimate and should be considered with caution. In particular, the number of species of mammals present in the Brussels Region could actually be higher than 39 because there is doubt concerning the presence of certain species of bats.

About 50 %, 15 % and 100 % respectively of the native and non-extinct species of mammals, birds, and reptiles and amphibians are threatened (endangered or vulnerable). Compared to other taxonomic groups for which historical data are available in the Brussels-Capital Region, butterflies and dragonflies record a particularly important regression.

For plants, 66 species (out of 578 ’native’8plants recorded) are identified as being endangered. Actually, this figure is most likely much higher since the conservation status is unspecified for the majority of the plants. The number of ’neophytes’ (plants arrived under human influence) is rising rapidly. It is currently estimated at approximately 215 species. For mosses and lichens, no distinction is made between native and exotic species. Many exotic animal species are also observed, including inter alia three species of mammals and 11 species of birds.

 


8 This excludes the plants considered as “neophytes” i.e. introduced into our areas after 1500

Overall, for the continental region, only boxwood xerothermic formations were deemed to be in favourable status. Rivers, megaphorbic areas and acidophilous beech forests with Ilex and Taxus were deemed to be in an inadequate status. The other habitats evaluated are in an unfavourable status. As far as forests are concerned, factors lowering the status basically involve the presence of wide diameter-wood and dead wood (insufficient volume and number). No forest habitat in the continental region had a good evaluation as far as the vertical structure was concerned or the presence of natural regeneration. As well as various structural and functioning problems, the poor evaluation of other formations, such as dry heaths, grasslands and screes, comes from the reduced size of their distribution area in relation to the land area required for the good functioning of the habitat and its long term conservation10.

 


10 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2009), p 146. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/download.php?file=uploads/tbe/en_tbe2008_full.pdf

In the Brussels-Capital Region, the majority of the habitats are in an unfavourable conservation status. Only two habitats, namely the Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities11 and the alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior12, have a favourable conservation status. Despite the small regional scale which sometimes limits the quantitative potential for natural habitat development, it is mainly the habitat quality that causes the generally unfavourable conservation status. Therefore, the future emphasis will lie on improving this habitat quality in order to attain a better conservation status for all habitat types13.

 


11 European habitat 6430

12 European habitat 91E0

13 National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p15.

Figures

Figure 2. Trend abundance of forest, farmland and other common birds in the Flemish Region (1990 to 2007-2008)

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=676&id_structuur=71
Figure 2. Trend abundance of forest, farmland and other common birds in the Flemish Region (1990 to 2007-2008)
Fullscreen image Original link

Figure 2 illustrates the evolution of the European Common Bird Index from 1990 to 2007-2008 in Flanders. The ‘Common bird index’ is calculated as the trend abundance of forest, farmland and other common birds. The trend is calculated as annual median over species6.

The farmland bird indicator dropped sharply between 1990 and 2000-2002. Afterwards, the decline continued, but less pronounced.

Other species-based indicators for Flanders can be consulted on-line (in English) via the following URL: http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&id_structuur=71.

Common forest birds have increased (e.g. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor, Eurasian Nuthatch, Sitta europaea).

 


Key message

Near one third of the nesting bird species in the Walloon Region are threatened and the abundance of the forest common birds and farmland birds is declining.

Figures

In Wallonia, near one-third of the nesting bird species are threatened. Threatened species are particularly encountered in open, aquatic and agricultural ecosystems. This situation is notably explained by the fact that the area of the heathlands, fens or grasslands is particularly confined. In agricultural areas, few nesting sites and food resources are available throughout the year, without factoring in the specific impact of certain practices (phytosanitary treatments for instance). According to the last inventories, the abundance of the forest common birds would have decreased by 18.5 % between 2005 and 2009. Moreover, the Farmland bird index dropped by 20.5 % between 1990 and 2009.

Key message

In the Flemish Region, slightly more than a quarter of the species (16 species, 27 %) have a favourable conservation status. For 12 species (20 %) the conservation status is inadequate and for 22 species (37 %) the status is unfavourable (bad).

Figures

Figure 3: Conservation status of species of European interest in Flanders

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&id_structuur=71
Figure 3: Conservation status of species of European interest in Flanders
Fullscreen image Original link

The conservation status of ‘species of European interest’ (see Figure 3) has been evaluated as part of the reporting requirements for the EU Habitats Directive, under the Article 17 Report (2001-2006). In the Flemish Region, slightly more than a quarter of the species (16 species, 27 %) have a favourable conservation status. For 12 species (20 %) the conservation status is inadequate and for 22 species (37 %) the status is unfavourable (bad). For nine species there was insufficient data to evaluate the status. The status of aquatic species gives the greatest cause for concern, with only one of the ten species being considered as having a favourable status. Water pollution and eutrophication are the main threats reported for most species.

 

Common birds are also monitored in Brussels. Thirteen species have been expanding during the period 1992-2008, two of which are exotic species. Eleven species are declining, while nine species are considered as stable.

 

More information on biodiversity for the Brussels-Capital Region can be found at:
http://documentation.bruxellesenvironnement.be/documents/EE2006FR_volet2_nature_EV.PDF?langtype=2060 (French)

http://documentatie.leefmilieubrussel.be/documents/EE2006NL_volet2_nature_EV.PDF?langtype=2067 (Dutch)

Key message

The conservation status of 79% of the habitat which is to be conserved in the framework of the EU Habitat Directive in Belgium has an 'unfavourable bad' conservation status.

Figures

Figure 6. Overall assessment of conservation status by habitat category (%) (2001-2006).

Green (FV): favourable, yellow (U1): unfavourable inadequate, red (U2): unfavourable bad, grey (XX): unknown.
Data source
http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/env/monnat/library?l=/habitats_reporting/reporting_2001-2007/ms-reports_summaries/national_sumarypdf_1/_EN_1.0_&a=d
Figure 6. Overall assessment of conservation status by habitat category (%) (2001-2006).
Fullscreen image Original link

The overall assessment of conservation status as reported within the framework of the Article 17 reporting of the EU Habitats Directive (2001-2006) is the following: 6 % of the Belgian habitats are in ‘favourable’ conservation status; 13 % are in ‘unfavourable inadequate’, 79 % ‘unfavourable bad’ and 2 % are in ‘unknown’ status. Figure 5 shows the assessment of conservation status by habitat category.

Key message

73 % of the species in the Continental Region of the Walloon Region have an unfavourable conservation status.

According to the Article 17 Report for the Habitats Directive, the conservation status of ‘species of European interest’ was deemed to be unfavourable for 73 % of the species in the Continental Region. 67 taxa or groups of taxa were studied. Among them, superior plants and butterflies had the largest number of taxons whose conservation status was unfavourable7.

Other species-based data for Wallonia can be consulted on-line at the following URL (in French):

Chapitre 12, Rapport analytique 2006-2007 (2007), available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/download.php?file=uploads/rapports/Rapport_analytique.pdf

 Partie Etat des composantes de l'environnement, chapitre Faune, flore et habitats, Tableau de bord de l'environnement wallon 2010, available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?page=le-tableau-de-bord-2010


7 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2008), p146. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/download.php?file=uploads/tbe/en_tbe2008_full.pdf

 

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original
Key message

Land conversion, fragmentation, artificialisation, eutrophication, acidification, climate change and invasive alien species are the most prominent drivers behind the loss of biodiversity in Belgium.

Land conversion, fragmentation and artificialisation - whether for urban and industrial expansion, agriculture, infrastructure or tourism - are among the major causes of biodiversity loss in Belgium. This topic is treated elsewhere, under commonality topic land use.

Other key drivers and pressures such as eutrophication, acidification, climate change and invasive alien species are discussed in this section with regional indicators and figures on the subject. Additionally, high recreation pressure – especially in the Brussels-Capital Region - is also an important driver of biodiversity loss in Belgium1, but is not discussed in the current analysis.

 


1 National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p15.

Key message

The exceedance of the critical load for eutrophication in Flanders is one of the highest in Europe.

Figures

Figure 8: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Flanders 1990-2006

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=57
Figure 8: Exceedance of critical load for eutrophication in Flanders 1990-2006
Fullscreen image Original link

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in Flanders amounted to an average of 37.0 kg N/ha in 2006, a reduction of 33 % compared to 1990. In 2006, nitrogen deposition exceeded the critical load in 100 % of forest, 100 % of heathland and 68 % of species rich grassland areas. Together, this amounts to 91 % of the nitrogen sensitive areas. The exceedance in 2006 averaged 17.6 kg N/ha. The mean exceedance is highest in forests (+23.4 kg N/ha in 2006), followed by heathlands and species-rich grasslands (+13.4 and +5.8 kg N/ha respectively in 2006). The exceedance of the critical loads in Flanders is one of the highest in Europe (European Environment Agency, 2005). The average exceedance of the critical load has been decreasing since 1999 (trend 2000-2006: -1.7 kg N/ha/year).

Figures

Figure 9: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Flanders 1990-2006

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=58&id_structuur=9
Figure 9: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Flanders 1990-2006
Fullscreen image Original link

The area of sensitive ecosystems where deposition of acidifying compounds exceeded the critical load decreased steadily during the period 1990-2006, primarily as a consequence of emission reduction policies. In 2006, this downward trend was halted and even reversed, with critical load being exceeded on 49, 22 and 41 % of the area of forests, heathlands and high nature value grasslands, respectively. Taken together, critical loads for acidification were exceeded on 44 % of the overall area covered by sensitive terrestrial ecosystems in Flanders in 2006. Given the downward trend in deposition rates of nitrogen and sulphur, a further decrease of the area with exceeded critical load is to be expected. However, the current 2010 policy target will not suffice to allow for spontaneous soil chemical recovery. A further decrease of deposition rates to levels below the critical loads is a prerequisite for such a recovery and for halting the pressure on biodiversity2.

 


Figures

In 2007, around 6 % of forest land, and almost all open land ecosystems (moors, swamps, peatlands...) were affected by exceedance of the critical load of nitrogen. In forests, the situation has noticeably improved compared to 1990, following a reduction in atmospheric deposits of nitrogen (-12 % between 1990 and 2004). This does not apply to the other semi-natural ecosystems that are more sensitive to this kind of disruption; important exceedings (superior to 3.5 kg N/(ha.an)) were still recorded in 2007, particularly to the north of the Sambre-and-Meuse river line. The acidifying effects of nitrogen deposits are less problematic, in that they only affect less than 1 % of the total area of the land concerned.

The areas of forests for wich the critical loads were exceeded in 2007 coincide with the ones that have been calculated considering that the emission ceilings fixed by european legislation (2001/81/EC directive) were respected. This shows the positive impact of measures that are implemented in order to reduce nitrogen pollutants atmospheric emissions in Wallonia (AGW dated 25/03/2004, Plan Air Climat) and at the european level.

On the other hand, no beneficial effects are expected for the semi-natural vegetation of open environments, given that more than 98 % of corresponding superficies (areas? surfaces?) are still set to suffer the negative impacts of excessive nutrient nitrogen fallout between now and 20103.

 


3 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2010), p129. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?page=le-tableau-de-bord-2010

 

Figures

Figure 11: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Wallonia 1990-2010

None
Data source
http://environnement.wallonie.be/
Figure 11: Exceedance of critical load for acidification in Wallonia 1990-2010
Fullscreen image Original link
Data sources
Source

The exceedance of the critical load for acidification has decreased sharply since 1990 in the Walloon region, as is illustrated in Figure 11.

A list composed by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform of all the alien species threatening native biodiversity in Belgium can be found at: http://ias.biodiversity.be/ias/species/all. Trends are further discussed per region.

Figures

Figure 12: Threat from introduction of new alien animal species.

None
Data source
http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?detail=654&lang=en
Figure 12: Threat from introduction of new alien animal species.
Fullscreen image Original link

During the last five years, the number of alien plant and animal species has increased by an average of more than 25 per year in Flanders. The cost of controlling invasive species (e.g. Black Cherry and Canada Goose) is high. Between 1900 and 2007, about 900 alien plant species appeared in the Flemish countryside. Nearly 400 of these established permanent populations. The number of alien species increases exponentially. Whether these species will disappear or spread far beyond their place of introduction, is unknown at the moment. In 2006, 37 alien vertebrate and 38 invertebrate species were inventoried which were introduced through human activities (in 1900, the numbers were 11 and 4 species respectively)4.

 


4 Research Institute for Nature and Forest (2008), p19. Also available at: http://indicatoren.milieuinfo.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&id_structuur=19

Figures

Figure 13: Geographic distribution of the presence of the number of black listed species in the Walloon Region

None
Data source
http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?mact=tbe,mf7538,default,1&mf7538what=fiches&mf7538alias=invasive-exotic-species&mf7538returnid=35&page=35
Figure 13: Geographic distribution of the presence of the number of black listed species in the Walloon Region
Fullscreen image Original link

In the Walloon Region, 297 species of ornamental plants and 26 species of vertebrates of exotic origin are spontaneously developing in nature (naturalised species). Among them, 30 species of plants and 11 species of vertebrates have a high environmental impact and are therefore included in the black list5.

The pressure of introduction and the presence of anthropised ecosystems are particularly high in the north of the Sambre and Meuse river line, producing a concentration of observations of exotic species which damage the environment in this area6.

 


5 See http://ias.biodiversity.be/ias/definitions#list for a definition of the term ‘black list’.

Cellule Etat de l'Environnement wallon (2010), p128. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/index.php?page=le-tableau-de-bord-2010

6 Cellule Etat de l’Environnement wallon (2008), p141. Also available at: http://etat.environnement.wallonie.be/download.php?file=uploads/tbe/en_tbe2008_full.pdf

Cities are important introduction points for alien plants and animals. The number of alien plants present in Brussels has considerably increased since 1960. It has risen from about 54 alien species inventoried during the 1960-1974 period to 301 inventoried in the period 1990-2005. One plant species out of four is currently a new exotic plant in Brussels, some of which belonging to the category of invasive alien species7.  Even though most invasive alien species present in the Brussels-Capital Region are plants, there are also species present which belong to other taxonomic groups such as birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

 


There is increasing evidence that climate change affects nature in Belgium. The arrival date of migratory birds and the first appearance of butterflies and dragonflies in spring are advancing. Not only the phenology but also the geographical range of species is changing. Southern species are expanding northwards. Some southern European dragonflies are increasingly observed in Belgium. The number reported in 2006 was the highest since the start of recorded observations. Some species that were only occasional visitors in the past, such as the migrant spreadwing (Lestes barbarus), now have permanent populations.

Since some species adapt better than others, there is a risk of changes in the food web and/or ecological cohesion of ecosystems. This is illustrated by the pied flycatcher. The arrival date of this migratory species advances more slowly than the period of occurrence of the main food for its young, the caterpillars of the winter moth. This is a possible cause of the decline of this woodland bird.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original

The human population in Belgium is expected to grow by just under 14 % between 2005 and 20301.

This population growth is expected to be more pronounced in the Brussels-Capital Region (23 %) and Walloon Region (16 %) than in the Flemish Region (12 %). Population growth is likely to lead to an increased land conversion to cater for the need of space for housing, industry, infrastructure, etc. (see section commonality, land-use for more details)

 


The Sonian forest (Forêt de Soignes) is a large forest which lies south-east of Brussels and which extends into the territory of the three regions. Currently, this forest is predominantly composed of beech trees, and a number of local factors make this specific beech forest a fragile ecosystem. Recently, the question was raised what the impact of climate change might be on this fragile ecosystem. A study was performed of the Brussels part of this forest, taking into account one of the intermediate scenarios (A1B) from a series composed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC). According to this scenario, by 2100, the Sonian Forest would be subject to climatic conditions comparable to the current climate in the Loire basin. This climate change would imply an increase in the annual average temperature of 3°C and in the average summer temperature of almost 4°C, a decrease in precipitation of approximately 15% in the growing season and of approximately 25% in the summe, an increase in winter precipitation of almost 20% and  an increase both in frequency and intensity of winter storms (lower degree of certainty).

The study shows that these changes have rendered nearly the entire surface area of the forest from ’tolerant‘ in the year 2000 to ’excluded‘ or ’highly excluded‘ for beech forest stands in 2100 (except in the valleys and in a particular zone). These projections may call into question the objective adopted in 2003 by the Brussels Region in its management plan for the Sonian Forest, as it intends to maintain the appearance of the landscape of the ’beech cathedral‘ over 50% of the area of the forest (from a cultural and aesthetic perspective). A review of the management plan seems inevitable if the requirements for the announced changes are to be met (diversification of the species by privileging the species most likely to be able to adapt to the forecast changes). However, some management measures were already adopted to face these changes.

The expected rises in temperature will make it possible for fauna and flora of warmer climatic zones to settle in the local ecoregion and concurrently be the reason why some species will disappear. However, the extent of the impact of climate change on the loss of biodiversity in Belgium is not yet clear.

Atmospheric eutrophying and acidifying depositions are declining and are expected to further decline until 20304.

If all European targets are met, acidification will by then have a negligible impact on the environment. Eutrophication, on the other hand, will remain problematic, especially for heathland vegetations5, which thrive on soils with a very low fertility.

 


4 Flemish Environment Agency, 2009b

5 INBO, 2009

What will be the state of biodiversity in Flanders in 2030 and which policy options are the most effective to halt the loss of biodiversity? Providing answers to those questions should help policy makers in selecting appropriate post-2010-targets.

Six policy scenarios were developed in a participatory way: two degrees of investment to improve the quality of the environment, combined with three strategies in the organisation of the open space. The two environment scenarios are (1) business as usual and (2) increased investments to achieve the European environment targets. The three open-space strategies are (1) business as usual, (2) focusing the efforts on large protected areas and (3) emphasising multi-functionality and cooperation with a variety of actors, e.g. through agri-environment schemes. The open-space strategies are developed within the same government budget.

The modelling started from regional socio-economic prognoses and down-scaled international climate scenarios. The consequences of those developments and of the policy scenarios were calculated, first for land use and environmental quality and subsequently for the future chances for habitats and species.

All investigated scenarios proved beneficial to certain components of biodiversity. All species were better off with an improved environmental quality. Species from marshes and heathland and specialist forest species benefitted more from the large protected areas, while species from agricultural landscapes and common forest species were favoured by the multifunctional landscapes. However, budget restrictions oblige policy-makers to choose.

Comparing biodiversity management by government with biodiversity management in cooperation with nature NGOs demonstrated that this cooperation resulted in more benefits for biodiversity at a lesser government cost.

The results finally demonstrated how policy instruments can be more effective if they are implemented with a clear focus on selected species or habitats, in some cases even without disadvantage for other species or habitats.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 05 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 22 Dec 2010 original

At the national level, the National Biodiversity Strategy 2006-2016, adopted in October 2006, was developed as a direct response to Article 6 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It is the first document on biodiversity that is applicable both at federal and regional levels.

The strategy spells out a range of priority objectives to anticipate, prevent and reduce the causes of biodiversity loss in Belgium. It also aims to (i) implement the Convention on Biodiversity, (ii) reach the 2010 target set out by the EU (halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010) and (iii) provide an integrated national response to the numerous treaties and agreements on biodiversity to which Belgium is a party.

More information available on: http://www.biodiv.be/implementation/strategy-be


Integration of biodiversity in sectoral activities

In November 2009, the federal government adopted the Federal Plan for the Sectoral Integration of Biodiversity. This plan is one of the government contributions to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity and to the implementation of Belgium’s National Biodiversity Strategy 2006-2016.

The plan focuses on four key sectors at the federal level: economy, development cooperation, science policy and transport. The objective is to better integrate biodiversity concerns in the activities of these sectors. This sectoral integration of biodiversity should not be restricted to a limited number of sectors, hence this plan is to be seen as a first step in this approach.

More information available on: http://www.biodiv.be/implementation/laws-policies/policies/federal/biodiv-plan

 

Protected areas

An overall total surface area for protected areas (PAs) cannot be given, since surfaces of PAs of several types overlap, wholly or partially.

The total Natura 2000 surface area in the terrestrial zone comes to 12.6 % of Belgium. In the marine zone about 12 % of the Belgian territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone is designated as Natura 2000.

The demarcation of the protected areas, which are summarised in Table 2, is embedded in regional policies aimed at countering the loss of biodiversity (except for the federal marine protected areas). Hence the response to biodiversity loss is described on a regional level below.

 

 

Brussels-Capital

Flanders

Wallonia

Federal marine

Belgium

 

Number

Area (ha)

Number

Area (ha)

Number

Area (ha)

Number

Area (ha)

Number

Area(ha)

 Total surface area

 

 16 140

 

1 352 200 

 

1 684 400 

 

 346 200

 

 3 052 800

Nature reserves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   public nature reserves

13

117

368

14 546

147

7 058

1

670

406

21 083

   private nature reserves

-

-

554

19 302

135

2 261

-

-

767

20 432

Natura 2000

3

2 432

62

166 187

240

220 945

5

42 305

310

428 908

Forest reserves

2

112

47

2 546

13

610

-

-

61

4 556

Forest special protection areas

4

587

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wetlands of biological interest

-

-

-

-

51

1 091

-

-

49

1 045

Caves

-

-

-

-

70

-

-

-

63

-

Natural parcs

-

-

1

5 700

9

306 971

-

-

10

312 167

Ramsar and other wetlands

-

-

4

5 572

4

38 528

1

1900

9

4 600

Dune Protection Act: protected dunes

-

-

135

1 105

-

-

-

-

±117

1 088

 

Table 2: Overview of the numbers and surface area of various types of protected areas (Source: National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p96 – revised according to recent changes)

 

Designated protected areas

In Belgium there are no special targets requiring protected areas to cover a minimum percentage of the ecological regions. However, the EU Habitats Directive and Birds Directive include qualitative targets for the designation of protected areas for the listed endangered species and habitats in Belgium.

 

At the end of 2008, the Flemish region had 20 014 ha of nature reserves. Just for the year 2008, the area of nature reserves has increased by 1379 ha. At the end of 2008, the Flemish region had 2 554 ha of forest reserves. Between 2004 and 2007, the network grew on average by about 145 ha per year. Taking into account the areas with a nature-oriented management, the total area with ‘conservation management’ at the end of 2007 is 39 365 ha. 12.3 % of the Flemish region is designated as Natura 2000 area1.

 


1 National Focal Point of Belgium for the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009), p72.

 

In the Brussels-Capital Region, a major part of the zones of high biological value is the object of one or several protection measures of very variable content. 1.5 % of the Brussels-Capital Region is designated as nature or forest reserve (13 and 2 respectively). However, as much as 14 % of the Brussels-Capital Region is designated as Natura 2000 area. Protection areas (34 % of the forest area) where, among others, walking is strictly limited to the paths, have also been designated2.

 


2 IGBE-BIM

Figures

The network of protected natural sites is growing but remains underdeveloped in Wallonia. In late april 2009, around 11,000 ha in natural sites (wich correspond to 0.65% of the Walloon territory) enjoyed high-protection status. Tho Walloon Region had 147 state nature reserves covering 7 058 ha, 135 approved nature reserves covering 2 261 ha, 13 forest reserves covering 610 ha, 51 wetlands of biological interest covering 1 091 ha and 70 underground cavities of scientific interest.

The general consensus among experts is that high-protection status needs to be assigned to 5 to 10% of the territory. Consequently, at least 73,000 ha in important ecological sites currently do not have a sufficient protection status. Extra efforts will need to be brought to bear in order to attain the minimum recommended land area.

 

Since 2004, Belgium has scored 100 % for the ’Sufficiency of sites designated under the EU habitats directive’ index Eurostat.

Regionally, this is supported by the following policy:

 

 

Sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. In the Flemish Region, 24 Special Protection Areas have been designated with a total area of 98 423 ha, or 7.3 % of the Flemish territory. There were 38 sites designated and put on the list of Sites of Community Interest by the European Commission. The Sites of Community Interest have a total area of 104 888 ha, or 7.8 % of the Flemish territory. The total Natura 2000 area comprises 166 187 ha (12.3 % of the Flemish terrestrial area). Marine areas are not included, as they are under the jurisdiction of the Belgian federal government. In 2008, there was a limited increase in the Sites of Community Interest, when the main channel of the Sea Scheldt and Ijzer were included. An international comparison shows that 12.3 % is low in comparison to the European average, but high when compared to neighbouring, densely populated regions.

Spatial planning for nature and forest areas. The land destination maps are being actualised to include the designation of the Flemish Ecological Network that supports and enhances Natura 2000, and to extend green destinations for nature and for forest.

Site-specific instruments. These instruments give a framework for conservation measures and for setting up partnerships:

- development of conservation objectives for SCI and SPA sites (Natura 2000)

- site-specific Nature Objectives Plans

- projects for nature development and restoration, especially in Natura 2000 sites

- development and implementation of management plans for nature reserves, forest reserves, parks and green spaces.

 

Information can be found on http://www.natuurenbos.be and on http://www.natuurindicatoren.be.

 

Figures

1) There are 240 Natura 2000 sites in the Walloon Region, covering 220 945 ha, equivalent to 13 % of the Region. The network is made up of almost 70 % in forests, representing 27 % of all Walloon woodlands). Grassland, fallow land and orchards on the one hand, and crops on the other, respectively occupy 16 % and 2 % of the total network, i.e. around 7 % of the Region's agricultural land.

2) The general concept of the ecological network has been transposed in the ‘Main Ecological Structure’ (Structure ecologique principale or SEP) and has been mapped. This structure contains two types of areas:

- Core areas: mainly dedicated to nature conservation,

- Ecological development areas: areas where human activities are less intensive in order to guarantee a balance between nature conservation and economic incomes.

In order to encourage farmers to apply agri-environmental measures, subsidies are increased if they are applied in interesting sites for nature (Natura 2000 sites and SEP areas).

In late 2009, The "SEP" covered 301,485 ha, i.e. 18% of the Walloon Region. Natura 2000 sites constitute the three-quarters of the actual "SEP".  

3) Nature development programmes in Wallonia are complementary to the protection of sites of significant biological interest. They mainly aim at the redeployment and consolidation of the ecological network. Besides ‘River contracts’, four programmes are supported by the Walloon Region : (1) Municipal nature development programmes (‘Plans communaux de développement de la nature’ (PCDN)), (2) Natural Parks, (3) ‘roadside’ convention (late reaping) and (4) ’attics and steeples’ convention (for improving living conditions of the wild fauna in buildings, mainly in churches (breeding grounds, bats…). In 2008, respectively 28, 32 et 21 % of municipalities were involved in one, two and three programmes. The most successful programmes are the ’roadside’ and ‘attics and steeples’ conventions. They are the easiest to set up at municipal level and there is considerable regional support for the effort needed for implementation.

 

Despite its urban character, the Brussels Region and its hinterland contain significant biodiversity often superior to many other territories in Belgium. Under the EU Habitats Directive, three sets of sites forming a mosaic of 48 sites were proposed and approved by the commission as ‘Special Areas of Conservation’ for a total area of more than 2 300 hectares. This is nearly 14 % of the total surface area (16 140 ha) of the administrative region.

Brussels is currently working on a better integration of the Habitat Directive in the regional legislation (new and better coordinated law). The ‘green network plan’ is the master plan for the ecological network. It is integrated into the Regional Land Use Plan and the Regional Development Plan. The green network aims to create a green continuity throughout the Brussels-Capital Region, which, combined with ecological management, enable a larger dispersion of animal and plant species. A specific ecological network plan has been adopted as general guidance. The practical implementation in the field is not easy. The implementation of the Natura 2000 network, which is based on the concept of core areas and connecting areas, however, is already a major contribution to the realisation of the network and covers about 14.3 % of the regional territory. In addition Brussels is currently working on the elaboration of biodiversity plan as such.

For more details see: http://documentation.bruxellesenvironnement.be/documents/EE2006FR_volet2_nature_EV.PDF?langtype=2060 (French)

http://documentatie.leefmilieubrussel.be/documents/EE2006NL_volet2_nature_EV.PDF?langtype=2067 (Dutch).

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