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European Rewilding Network

Slikken van de Heen

Natural grazing with bison, konik horses and cattle

The Slikken van de Heen consists of former sandbanks, mud flats and salt marshes. Large grazers provide an open and varied landscape.
Marcel Klootwijk
A natural herd of konik horses has been walking around for six years now, who satisfactorily tackle the dune reed, making these felted grass plains more open and flowery.
Esther Linnartz
The combination of three types of grazers leads to the most variation, and is the most beneficial for nature. It is also the most natural: originally there were cattle, horses and bison in this part of Europe.
In this unique area, the European bison lives in relative wet conditions, in swampy vegetations and willow forests, on rich clay soils.
Marcel Klootwijk
Slikken van de Heen is also home to the Eurasian spoonbill colony.
Chiel Jacobusse

Slikken van de Heen is part of Krammer-Volkerak, a Natura 2000 site which was connected with the North Sea until 1987. Today it is a large freshwater lake supporting huge numbers of water birds, while the area is also home to animals such as a breeding pair of white-tailed eagles, a spoonbill colony and pine martens. Grazing former coastal salt marsh without any additional food or water, the reserve’s European bison and other large herbivores help to preserve the semi-open landscape and prevent the botanically rich grassland from being taken over by trees, non-native invasive species and bracken.

One unique aspect of natural grazing at Slikken van de Heen is that the European bison are thriving in relatively wet conditions (swampy vegetation and willow forests on top of rich clay). While the European bison is primarily known as a forest dweller, reserves such as Slikken van de Heen and Kraansvlak (also in the Netherlands) are demonstrating that they can live in more open, wetter landscapes without any support. This means the number of areas where bison could be reintroduced in Europe is potentially far greater.

Project: Slikken van de Heen
Region: The Netherlands province Zeeland
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: Since February 2020 all three species are grazing here year round without artificial feeding. First results on controlling of invasive species is very positive! Also we see an increase of diversity of plant species.
Preserving and developing biodiversity by natural grazing with European bisons, konik horses and rode geus cattle. Contributing to the bison breeding program and learning more of their impact in wet forests and half open landscapes.
Uniqueness of the project: Unique is that the European bison live here in relative wet conditions (swampy vegetations and willow forests) on rich clay soils. Besides that, it’s one of the best examples of a Forest-grassland mosaic landscape in Holland. None of the trees are planted and grazers were present since the area changed from a coastal salt marsh reserve to a fresh water reserve.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Education, Research
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: • To have around 110-150 grazers in less than 10 years and expand the present grazing are with 60 ha
• To have the biggest herd of European bison in the Netherlands
• To be an inspiration for other organizations
• To reduce the dominance of invasive species and bracken
• To maintaining a mosaic landscape
• A better water quality of the lake
• A better connection with the lake and other wetlands nearby
• More knowledge of the effect of bison grazing in wetter forest on rich soil
• To learn about the interactions between the three different types of grazers, and their effects on the landscape
• Contributing to the European bison breeding program
Results so far: In 2020 there are ca. 60 horses, 20 cattle and 14 European (lowland) bison. 2020 was the year the first bison (11) came and three young were born. So far the animals seems to flourish and no bison died. Invasive species are heavily eaten. The project gains a lot of positive media and response from visitors.
Inspirational value: We learned a lot from experts working with European bison in other reserves in The Netherlands. Because of that the project had a very good start and no problems appeared so far.
Experience you would like to share: So far the bison seem to adapt very well to the half open wet forest. The first effects of the grazing and browsing are very positive. They ate a lot of the invasive species: Giant hogweed. Also they debark and brake much more trees and shrubs species than the cattle and horses did before. This is a big plus as it prevents that the grasslands are slowly turning in to forest. They also spend a lot of time in the bracken, causing it to break and open up. They seem to be fond of the water and regularly cross (shallow) creeks without any problems. On warm days they spent time in the water to cool off.
Experience you would like to gain: To find out what the benefits are to have European bison on top of konik horses and rode geus cattle.
Map
Country
Netherlands
Start year
2019
Size (ha)
600
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Freshwater lakes, Wetlands
Natural process
Bark beetle, Natural grazing, Wetland dynamics
Flagship species
Bison, Feral cattle, Feral horses, Roe deer
Slikken van de Heen
Slikken van de Heen
Slikken van de Heen
The Slikken van de Heen consists of former sandbanks, mud flats and salt marshes. Large grazers provide an open and varied landscape.
Marcel Klootwijk
A natural herd of konik horses has been walking around for six years now, who satisfactorily tackle the dune reed, making these felted grass plains more open and flowery.
Esther Linnartz
The combination of three types of grazers leads to the most variation, and is the most beneficial for nature. It is also the most natural: originally there were cattle, horses and bison in this part of Europe.
In this unique area, the European bison lives in relative wet conditions, in swampy vegetations and willow forests, on rich clay soils.
Marcel Klootwijk
Slikken van de Heen is also home to the Eurasian spoonbill colony.
Chiel Jacobusse

Slikken van de Heen is part of Krammer-Volkerak, a Natura 2000 site which was connected with the North Sea until 1987. Today it is a large freshwater lake supporting huge numbers of water birds, while the area is also home to animals such as a breeding pair of white-tailed eagles, a spoonbill colony and pine martens. Grazing former coastal salt marsh without any additional food or water, the reserve’s European bison and other large herbivores help to preserve the semi-open landscape and prevent the botanically rich grassland from being taken over by trees, non-native invasive species and bracken.

One unique aspect of natural grazing at Slikken van de Heen is that the European bison are thriving in relatively wet conditions (swampy vegetation and willow forests on top of rich clay). While the European bison is primarily known as a forest dweller, reserves such as Slikken van de Heen and Kraansvlak (also in the Netherlands) are demonstrating that they can live in more open, wetter landscapes without any support. This means the number of areas where bison could be reintroduced in Europe is potentially far greater.

Map
Country
Netherlands
Start year
2019
Size (ha)
600
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Freshwater lakes, Wetlands
Natural process
Bark beetle, Natural grazing, Wetland dynamics
Flagship species
Bison, Feral cattle, Feral horses, Roe deer
Specification
Project: Slikken van de Heen
Region: The Netherlands province Zeeland
Description
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: Since February 2020 all three species are grazing here year round without artificial feeding. First results on controlling of invasive species is very positive! Also we see an increase of diversity of plant species.
Preserving and developing biodiversity by natural grazing with European bisons, konik horses and rode geus cattle. Contributing to the bison breeding program and learning more of their impact in wet forests and half open landscapes.
Uniqueness of the project: Unique is that the European bison live here in relative wet conditions (swampy vegetations and willow forests) on rich clay soils. Besides that, it’s one of the best examples of a Forest-grassland mosaic landscape in Holland. None of the trees are planted and grazers were present since the area changed from a coastal salt marsh reserve to a fresh water reserve.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Education, Research
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: • To have around 110-150 grazers in less than 10 years and expand the present grazing are with 60 ha
• To have the biggest herd of European bison in the Netherlands
• To be an inspiration for other organizations
• To reduce the dominance of invasive species and bracken
• To maintaining a mosaic landscape
• A better water quality of the lake
• A better connection with the lake and other wetlands nearby
• More knowledge of the effect of bison grazing in wetter forest on rich soil
• To learn about the interactions between the three different types of grazers, and their effects on the landscape
• Contributing to the European bison breeding program
Results so far: In 2020 there are ca. 60 horses, 20 cattle and 14 European (lowland) bison. 2020 was the year the first bison (11) came and three young were born. So far the animals seems to flourish and no bison died. Invasive species are heavily eaten. The project gains a lot of positive media and response from visitors.
Exchange
Inspirational value: We learned a lot from experts working with European bison in other reserves in The Netherlands. Because of that the project had a very good start and no problems appeared so far.
Experience you would like to share: So far the bison seem to adapt very well to the half open wet forest. The first effects of the grazing and browsing are very positive. They ate a lot of the invasive species: Giant hogweed. Also they debark and brake much more trees and shrubs species than the cattle and horses did before. This is a big plus as it prevents that the grasslands are slowly turning in to forest. They also spend a lot of time in the bracken, causing it to break and open up. They seem to be fond of the water and regularly cross (shallow) creeks without any problems. On warm days they spent time in the water to cool off.
Experience you would like to gain: To find out what the benefits are to have European bison on top of konik horses and rode geus cattle.
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