Restoration works started at pilot site Vallei van de Zwarte Beek (BE)

The restoration plan of pilot site Vallei van de Zwarte Beek has come into effect this summer. Natuurpunt together with Natuur- en Landschapszorg, started closing 15 km of ditches.

The first step to rehabilitating this degraded peatland is to restore the water table and rewet the surface area. For the moment the peatland is literally draining. In the past ditches were installed in the valley to transform the typical peat bogs into productive grasslands that were mowed by conventional agricultural machinery.

So, Natuurpunt started the restoration works by closing up all local ditches. At this stage only on their own property. These works are carried out by their partner Natuur- en Landschapszorg vzw. It is estimated that approximately 15 km of ditches will be closed in the upcoming months. Where superficial drainage still has to be provided (e.g. for a neighbouring private owner), ditches will merely be made less deep. It can already be noticed that the seepage water remains present, which is beneficial for the peat itself but also for peat-bound plant species and vegetations.
Also, Natuur- en Landschapszorg is cleaning up remnants of fences and illegal cottages in the valley.

At the moment, Natuurpunt is working on a sustainable management plan. They will be able to manage the rewet area with adapted machines such as tractors with low-pressure tyres.

In the upcoming months another 10 ha of habitat restoration will be carried out. This consists of the removal of forest and scrub, restoration of hydrology and also the remediation of an old pond. These works will be carried out by a contractor. End is foreseen in April 2021. These repaired plots will contribute to a better protection of the peat layer, it will prevent further drying of the peat and will realise an open peat valley.

In the meantime, a stakeholder consultation has also been started with the Flemish Land Agency in order to look into the possibility to relocate private landowners that are now based in the middle of the pilot site.

Unfortunately, due to the imposed COVID-19 measures, site visits with local residents, landowners and farmers are not possible. For the time being, these activities will be postponed to the beginning of 2021.

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