European Rewilding Network

Grote Netewoud

Wilderness on a human scale

Vast alluvial and alder swamp forests, rivers and open water interspersed with dry heathland, land dunes, mires and grasslands give the valley of the Grote Nete its exceptional natural value in Western Europe.
Natuurpunt
The main focus of work is the preservation and restoration of natural woodland habitats and the reestablishment of more natural water flow, which have been adversely affected by factors such as intensive agriculture and afforestation.
Natuurpunt
The realisation of Grote Netewoud will create the largest area of floodplain forest in northern Belgium.
Natuurpunt
Black stork is one of the flagship species of Grote Netewoud.
Wim Dirckx
Creating a more natural, wilder river ecosystem in one of the most densely populated areas of Europe will also give many Europeans the opportunity to discover thriving wild nature, right on their doorstep.
Natuurpunt

Located in the Kempen region of northeast Belgium, close to the Dutch border,   the valley of the Grote Nete (Great Nete) River is characterised by its remarkably diverse mosaic of habitats, including heathland, sand dune, grassland, marsh and floodplain forest. These are home to a rich wild nature, with beaver, otter and black stork as signature species.

Extending across 340 hectares, a series of nature reserves (most designated as Natura 2000 Network sites) has already been created along the valley of the Grote Nete. Leading Belgian conservation NGO Natuurpunt has been working to connect these areas since 2012, rewilding the landscape to create one continuous, 2500-hectare reserve: the Grote Netewoud (Great Nete Forest).

Project: Grote Netewoud
Region: Flanders
Habitat types: - alluvial and alder swamp forests (mainly)
- wet grasslands
- lowland river and open water
- mires and quacking bogs
- land dunes and dry heath
Keystone species: beaver, otter, black stork, kingfisher burbot
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Increasing interest in the wild through communications
Aim and vision: Realization of the largest alluvial forest area in Flanders via large scale restoration of species-rich, resilient alluvial forests (91E0*), taking into account the essential ecologic and abiotic requirements of this ecosystem for its optimal development and long-term conservation. Identifying and implementing best practice methods for the ecological restoration of 91E0* and increasing the socio-economic potential and awareness of the area.
The realisation of Grote Netewoud will create the largest area of floodplain forest in northern Belgium. Such forests occur along streams and rivers that seasonally or intermittently flood their banks, and are some of the most species-rich habitats in Europe. Creating a more natural, wilder river ecosystem in one of the most densely populated areas of Europe will also give many Europeans the opportunity to discover thriving wild nature, right on their doorstep.
Uniqueness of the project: Our main focus is to develop the Grote Netewoud valley into a more natural, wilder river ecosystem right in the densely populated heart of Europe, creating also more opportunities for people to experience this extraordinary nature. The lowland river system ‘Grote Nete’ is well-suited to the development of a vast woodland with new habitat for very critical species such as otter, black stork and beaver. The main focus of the project is the large-scale restoration, development and sustainable management of alluvial forest, mainly by means of natural forestation, dispersed with small pockets of valuable open habitats, typical for river valleys. Our second objective is to increase significantly the amount of visitors and the public support for the natural area and Natura 2000, by among other things realizing new innovative visitor infrastructure and a visitor centre for people to (re)discover the wild river valley, organizing ranger activities and creating possibilities to get involved in the project. Finally, with the project we want to demonstrate the importance of the area as a lever for a nature-based approach to major challenges such as climate change, water problems (drought/flooding) and socio-economic impulses for the local communities.
Other activities: Community involved, Education, Recreational activities
Results so far: - Establishment of several nature reserves in the valley of the Grote Nete with a total surface of more than 600 ha. This nature reserves are the core areas where the typical habitats and species, many of them rare and threatened, are managed in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
- Large restoration of more than 250 ha alluvial forests and open habitats such as water vegetations, dry heath, land dunes and grasslands.
- Opening of a new visitor centre, situated in a heritage site (old water mill) in 2019.
- Realization of new visitor infrastructure such as the ‘Totterpad’.
- Development of management teams and local chapters with strongly involved volunteers over the entire length of the valley, hence increasing the public support for the area significantly.
- Province of Antwerp and the Flemish Environment Agency (VMM), both partners in the project, are restoring the natural river course of the Grote Nete promoting the development of typical riverine habitats and species.
- Organization of 100s of activities for the general public, during which the importance of the high natural values is demonstrated and as a result of which the support for the project grows strongly.8, Setting up a consultation structure with local authorities and stakeholders, water managers and other land users to effectively realize the long-term vision for the area.
Inspirational value: Promotion and replication of the integrated ecological restoration approach for alluvial forests, based on the abiotic requirements needed for optimal development and long-term conservation to other similar areas in the Natura 2000 network. In addition, application of alluvial forests conservation and restoration as nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation will be promoted.
Experience you would like to share: 1. The development of a large scale project, in which nature restoration and development plays a central role and where a lot of interests meet.
2. Large scale restoration of typical habitats and their associated species in a lowland river ecosystem.
3. How to involve local people in a large scale project.
4. Working together with different stakeholders and managers to realize the common goals of river valley restoration.
5. Realizing new, innovative visitor infrastructure and a visitor centre to invite people to explore and (re)discover wild nature in a human environment.
6. Attracting different types of funding for project realization.
Experience you would like to gain: 1. How can we use nature based solutions in a wild, natural river valley to realize climate mitigation (mainly carbon storage) and climate adaptation (flood and drought protection) in a project on a European level.<br /> 2. How can we reinforce our efforts of our innovative concept of visitors infrastructure and centre, nature exploration and experience and promote the socio-economic benefits.
Map
Country
Belgium
Start year
2012
Size (ha)
3000
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Temperate deciduous forest
Natural process
Natural grazing, River dynamics, Wetland dynamics
Flagship species
Beaver, Otter
Grote Netewoud
Vast alluvial and alder swamp forests, rivers and open water interspersed with dry heathland, land dunes, mires and grasslands give the valley of the Grote Nete its exceptional natural value in Western Europe.
Natuurpunt
The main focus of work is the preservation and restoration of natural woodland habitats and the reestablishment of more natural water flow, which have been adversely affected by factors such as intensive agriculture and afforestation.
Natuurpunt
The realisation of Grote Netewoud will create the largest area of floodplain forest in northern Belgium.
Natuurpunt
Black stork is one of the flagship species of Grote Netewoud.
Wim Dirckx
Creating a more natural, wilder river ecosystem in one of the most densely populated areas of Europe will also give many Europeans the opportunity to discover thriving wild nature, right on their doorstep.
Natuurpunt

Located in the Kempen region of northeast Belgium, close to the Dutch border,   the valley of the Grote Nete (Great Nete) River is characterised by its remarkably diverse mosaic of habitats, including heathland, sand dune, grassland, marsh and floodplain forest. These are home to a rich wild nature, with beaver, otter and black stork as signature species.

Extending across 340 hectares, a series of nature reserves (most designated as Natura 2000 Network sites) has already been created along the valley of the Grote Nete. Leading Belgian conservation NGO Natuurpunt has been working to connect these areas since 2012, rewilding the landscape to create one continuous, 2500-hectare reserve: the Grote Netewoud (Great Nete Forest).

Map
Country
Belgium
Start year
2012
Size (ha)
3000
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Temperate deciduous forest
Natural process
Natural grazing, River dynamics, Wetland dynamics
Flagship species
Beaver, Otter
Specification
Project: Grote Netewoud
Region: Flanders
Habitat types: - alluvial and alder swamp forests (mainly)
- wet grasslands
- lowland river and open water
- mires and quacking bogs
- land dunes and dry heath
Keystone species: beaver, otter, black stork, kingfisher burbot
Description
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Increasing interest in the wild through communications
Aim and vision: Realization of the largest alluvial forest area in Flanders via large scale restoration of species-rich, resilient alluvial forests (91E0*), taking into account the essential ecologic and abiotic requirements of this ecosystem for its optimal development and long-term conservation. Identifying and implementing best practice methods for the ecological restoration of 91E0* and increasing the socio-economic potential and awareness of the area.
The realisation of Grote Netewoud will create the largest area of floodplain forest in northern Belgium. Such forests occur along streams and rivers that seasonally or intermittently flood their banks, and are some of the most species-rich habitats in Europe. Creating a more natural, wilder river ecosystem in one of the most densely populated areas of Europe will also give many Europeans the opportunity to discover thriving wild nature, right on their doorstep.
Uniqueness of the project: Our main focus is to develop the Grote Netewoud valley into a more natural, wilder river ecosystem right in the densely populated heart of Europe, creating also more opportunities for people to experience this extraordinary nature. The lowland river system ‘Grote Nete’ is well-suited to the development of a vast woodland with new habitat for very critical species such as otter, black stork and beaver. The main focus of the project is the large-scale restoration, development and sustainable management of alluvial forest, mainly by means of natural forestation, dispersed with small pockets of valuable open habitats, typical for river valleys. Our second objective is to increase significantly the amount of visitors and the public support for the natural area and Natura 2000, by among other things realizing new innovative visitor infrastructure and a visitor centre for people to (re)discover the wild river valley, organizing ranger activities and creating possibilities to get involved in the project. Finally, with the project we want to demonstrate the importance of the area as a lever for a nature-based approach to major challenges such as climate change, water problems (drought/flooding) and socio-economic impulses for the local communities.
Other activities: Community involved, Education, Recreational activities
Achievements
Results so far: - Establishment of several nature reserves in the valley of the Grote Nete with a total surface of more than 600 ha. This nature reserves are the core areas where the typical habitats and species, many of them rare and threatened, are managed in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
- Large restoration of more than 250 ha alluvial forests and open habitats such as water vegetations, dry heath, land dunes and grasslands.
- Opening of a new visitor centre, situated in a heritage site (old water mill) in 2019.
- Realization of new visitor infrastructure such as the ‘Totterpad’.
- Development of management teams and local chapters with strongly involved volunteers over the entire length of the valley, hence increasing the public support for the area significantly.
- Province of Antwerp and the Flemish Environment Agency (VMM), both partners in the project, are restoring the natural river course of the Grote Nete promoting the development of typical riverine habitats and species.
- Organization of 100s of activities for the general public, during which the importance of the high natural values is demonstrated and as a result of which the support for the project grows strongly.8, Setting up a consultation structure with local authorities and stakeholders, water managers and other land users to effectively realize the long-term vision for the area.
Exchange
Inspirational value: Promotion and replication of the integrated ecological restoration approach for alluvial forests, based on the abiotic requirements needed for optimal development and long-term conservation to other similar areas in the Natura 2000 network. In addition, application of alluvial forests conservation and restoration as nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation will be promoted.
Experience you would like to share: 1. The development of a large scale project, in which nature restoration and development plays a central role and where a lot of interests meet.<br /> 2. Large scale restoration of typical habitats and their associated species in a lowland river ecosystem.<br /> 3. How to involve local people in a large scale project.<br /> 4. Working together with different stakeholders and managers to realize the common goals of river valley restoration.<br /> 5. Realizing new, innovative visitor infrastructure and a visitor centre to invite people to explore and (re)discover wild nature in a human environment.<br /> 6. Attracting different types of funding for project realization.
Experience you would like to gain: 1. How can we use nature based solutions in a wild, natural river valley to realize climate mitigation (mainly carbon storage) and climate adaptation (flood and drought protection) in a project on a European level.<br /> 2. How can we reinforce our efforts of our innovative concept of visitors infrastructure and centre, nature exploration and experience and promote the socio-economic benefits.
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