A sublime symposium has crowned the Life+ Project Scalluvia, relive the highlights here
LIFE+ Scalluvia project
The LIFE+ Scalluvia project aims to improve 90 hectares of alluvial forests in the Polders of Kruibeke (Read the english brochure on Polders of Kruibeke). From September 2013 until September 2018, the partners worked together on making these woods a perfect home for many – often rare – plants and animals. That way, Scalluvia wants to become an example of habitat restoration for other European countries.
Alluvial forests are valuable. They are characterized by a very wet, almost swamplike soil. Certain plants, such as the black alder and marsh marigold, like this moist environment. They grow along the water of the small streams. And in the dense forest, many animals find a place to live.
The Scalluvia project not only aims to restore these woods, but also to make them more known to the public. Most parts of the forests and creeks are too vulnerable and – because of the muddy underground – dangerous to walk in. But paths guide visitors through areas that are open to public, where they can walk or cycle while enjoying the beautiful view.
Public opinion regarding the Polders of Kruibeke has evolved in 15 years from massive resistance to pride and enthusiasm. Life+ Scalluvia also played its part by making local residents co-owners of the area. It is precisely this last phase that will ensure the sustainability of the entire project. Clear communication and participation were key to the strong support. This process to co-ownership is summarized in 10 keys and can serve as inspiration for other nature development projects.
Getting in tip-top shape
Alluvial forests are rare – not only in Belgium, but worldwide. The Polders of Kruibeke hold 90 hectares of these unique forests, but they are not in great shape. The soil is too dry, especially during summer, and the quality of the water and soil has been on the decrease because of pollution. Digging a creek, placing three automatically regulated weirs and constructing ground dams will contribute to optimizing the the condition of these valuable woods.
Fish friendly dams
Dams, locks, weirs,… fishes come across a lot of obstructions when they make their way along the water. A free passage between the Scheldt, the creeks and other waterways in the Polders is essential for their existence. Fish friendly dams, with tunnels where they can swim through, assure that they can safely continue their journey in the creek.
Enhancing the shores
The shores of the Rupelmondse creek and some fishing ponds are often too steep and fixed with stone, wood or waste. By making these shores more sloping and removing the constructions, marsh- and waterplants can root. The water quality improves and animals find a place to hide and breed.
Restoring the woods
Along the Rupelmondse and Bazelse creek, exotic plants, such as bamboo, cypresses and rhododendron, grow. Since these plants don’t belong in an alluvial forest, black alders, shrubs and other plants who feel at home in an alluvial forest will take their place.
Poplars aren’t great for alluvial forests either, because of their limited biodiversity. By removing a piece of bark from poplars in the wettest areas, the tree gradually dies, creating opportunities for new life: it is a great hiding place for insects, such as caterpillars, centipedes and snails, and they – in their turn – attract birds who like all these tasty bugs…
A good scrub
Shelters, garbage, debris of buildings and other thrash don’t belong in a nature reserve, so these are being removed.
In the past, fisher men regenerated carp and bream in the creeks. Great for fishing, but not for the soil: they like to dig the ground, giving water plants no chance to grow. And the sunlight can’t get through the waste water, causing limited biodiversity. So these fishes are caught and moved to the Scheldt or the fish-pond at Kortbroek, giving other species new opportunities and restoring the natural balance.
Home sweet home
Scalluvia aims at attracting six specific animals to the woods. These animals – which are often rare – find a perfect place to live in the creeks, reeds or dense foliage.
In the creeks …
The gentle waters of the creeks is home to the bitterling. This clever fish seeks saltwater mussels in which it lays its eggs, so they are protected until they are old enough to swim free. The spined loach is hard to see because of its unremarkable brown colour. He looks for snails and other food in the creek using his tentacles. And he may be small, but don’t underestimate him: the hidden thorn above his eye is a great weapon.
… the reeds …
In the marshy reed beds two herons live: the little bittern (the smallest heron found in our regions) and the purple heron. Your chances of seeing the timid little bittern are very small, but the purple heron is easier to spot when he is standing motionless on the riverbank watching for fish.
… and the trees
The kingfisher likes to sit on a branch on the riverbank on the lookout for fish. If this beautiful bird spots one, he dives in the water swift as an arrow to seize his prey. And in the dense foliage the bluethroat shows off its impressive singing talent.
Nature and knowledge
Want to learn more about the unique nature of the Polders of Kruibeke? The Barbiergidsen and project partners are developing a whole range of educational material. You will soon be able to find all information on this website.
You can explore the Polders of Kruibeke by joining the Barbiergidsen on their polder walks (every first Sunday of the month). Or you can book a guided group walk.
The Natuurouders developed fun and educational material about alluvial forests for primary schools in cooperation with the Leen, Kaaihoeve and Regionaal Landschap Schelde.
For more information, click here.
The European Union possesses vast ecological wealth. LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3954 projects, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment. For the LIFE+ Scalluvia project in Kruibeke 90 hectares of alluvial forests and creeks are restored.
For more information on LIFE +, click here.
Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. It is an EUwide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the 1979 Birds Directive.
For more information on Natura 2000, click here.
de Vlaamse Waterweg
Flanders has one of the densest and most coherent waterway networks in Europe. De Vlaamse Waterweg wishes to capitalise on this important asset in the best possible way. And we have a clear vision on how to go about this: “we are working towards a dynamic management of our waterways, including the areas along it. We stimulates the use of these waterways and this land, while taking into account the interests of all the stakeholders involved and paying additional attention to sustainable growth, flood protection and integrated water management. We implements its vision by means of several activities. We considers its mission to be an important social project and implements a modern, innovative and future-oriented policy focusing on a prosperous, mobile, safe and green Flanders.
For more information on de Vlaamse Waterweg, click here.
Kruibeeks Natuurbehoud (Kruin)
Kruibeeks Natuurbehoud (Kruin) is a local nature association dedicated to protecting and improving the environment in Groot-Kruibeke. Volunteers not only identify, quantify, monitor and study the local biodiversity but also conduct nature education initiatives and assist in various study projects. Regular activities, such as walks and nature information evenings, involve residents.
For more information on Kruin, click here.
Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos (ANB)
Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos (ANB) is a Flemish Government agency active every day in maintaining, protecting and developing natural areas, woods and parks. It is the biggest owner of green areas in Flanders and manages 42,3000 hectares of woods, natural areas and parks.
The ANB is engaged in a number of large-scale projects to realize nature objectives along the Scheldt. Together with its partners, the ANB is committed to creating a robust Scheldt where safety, economic activity and nature can go hand in hand. This is also a great opportunity to enable the wonderful nature of the Scheldt to be enjoyed by all.
For more information on ANB, click here.
The Polders of Kruibeke lie within the territory of Kruibeke. This municipality born of the merger between Kruibeke, Bazel and Rupelmonde is situated in the Waasland in the northeast of the Province of East Flanders in Belgium. Due to its unique location on the banks of the Scheldt, the municipality is also involved in the Scheldt Land tourist region.
For more information on Kruibeke, click here.