Building “green infrastructure” in Brussels
An important and innovative aspect of the new nature legislation adopted by the Brussels Region in 2012 is the importance given to the implementation of an ecological network to protect urban biotopes and landscape elements.
Brussels Environment, the public body responsible for the management of about 1,750 hectares of forest and nature reserves and 350 hectares of urban green spaces, an IUCN Member, has established partnerships to develop “green infrastructure” – green connected areas.
The importance of railway verges for nature conservation and ecological connections within the Brussels area is well documented since the '90s. Surveys have indicated the presence of some hotspots of biodiversity on verges. Over the last ten years, pilot projects have been carried out to find the best ways of managing these spaces in a nature-friendly way, in collaboration with the railway management company. The good results obtained have called for a review on biodiversity data with the aim of developing a global management plan for all the railway verges. This idea is currently under development.
In 2012, collaboration started with the administration body responsible for the management of the roadsides. A number of roadsides with potential for biodiversity development have been selected. Here, old practices of regular mowing have been replaced by less seldom activity (only 2 to 3 times a year). The results have been positive: the poor grass-vegetation has left space to more numerous and colourful species and flower-rich vegetation which are much appreciated by people. Several kilometers of roadsides in poorly naturalized zones of the Brussels Region, have been part of this process. Yet still a lot of work is required to raise awareness, since not every citizen understands the importance of such action and its impact.
Brussels Environment has also started collaboration with the Belgian Army which occupies some large military domains in the city. The nature department has given recommendations to the Army managers to change their traditional lawn management into more biodiversity-friendly management based on mowing only twice a year (2 sites and 5 hectares), and preserve spontaneous vegetation on derelict land. The first results of this work are very promising.