Action plan for conservation and restoration of three woodlands in the Flemish Ardennes. The woodlands of Ename (current habitat: project area 265 ha), Everbeek (current habitat project area 533 ha) and Grimminge (current habitat: project area 314 ha) belong to the habitat directive area "Woods of the Flemish Ardennes and other Southern Flemish woods". The central part of these territories consists of deciduous wood of various habitat types. Among these are the priority types "Petrifying springs with tufa formation (Cratoneurion) " and "Residual alluvial forests (Alnion glutinoso-incanae)(Carici remotae-Fraxinetum and Pruno-Fraxinetum)". The rich fauna includes among others Triturus cristatus, Lampetra planeri and Cottus gobio (Annex II Habitat directive) and Pernis apivorus and Alcedo atthis (Annex I Bird directive). Various parts of the woods belong to the best developed examples of their habitats in Flanders, even in Europe. Some of the habitats and species have a limited European (Atlantic) distribution area. Other habitats occur at the edge of their distribution area (edge of the Western-European lowlands). The purpose of the project is to protect, to restore and to extend those habitats and populations of species in particular and of the biodiversity in general. The most important instrument to reach this aim is the purchase of 141 ha of land (woodland and surroundings) in addition to the surface of the existing nature reserves(habitat extension) . The commercial wood exploitation will be stopped and will be replaced by a management of doing nothing, by restoring coppice with standards (habitat-protection), or by converting homogeneous poplar plantations in former coppices to mixed woodland (habitat-restoration). This management will create new chances for species dependent on dead wood for their survival, to light demanding species and to species of shrub and edge communities. The fragmentation of the wood surface and the following separation of some populations under possible threat of extinction will come to an end by creating space for wood extension, accompanied by habitat-extension. The woods will become more compact, which is necessary for some bigger mammals and birds (e.g. Pernis apivorus). Negative effects from the surroundings on the wood habitats (such as ruderalization) will be reduced as intensive farming will be stopped and replaced by extensive grazing, and by organizing small scale water purifying systems, clearing away of waste dumping places and the removal of agricultural draining systems. The improvement of the ecological quality of the wood surroundings will also have positive effects on the population of Triturus cristatus. Water purification and actions to stop erosion of agricultural soils by reforestation (habitat-extension) will create new chances for Lampetra planeri, Cottus gobio en Alcedo atthis in the upper courses of the brooks. The project is based on a well-considered management plan, executed by the local working groups under the direction of a local steering committee and several actions are taken to enlarge public involvement. Scientific monitoring of the evolution of vegetation and of the fauna effects is also part of the project. The project will be submitted to an audit.
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