European Rewilding Network

Sonian Forest

The Sonian forest is an Atlantic acidophilous beech forest and consists of 4,400 hectares top European nature, connected to Brussels. It is the destination of several million visitors each year and the habitat of several Natura 2000 species.

Project: Sonian Forest
Region: Sonian Forest, near Brussels
Type of protection: SCI: BE2400008, SPA: BE2400008
Habitat types: The Sonian Forest has a variety of trees of different ages. The forest mainly consists of beech trees, which dominate with approximately 70 percent of the Sonian Forest. Throughout the course of history, parts of the Sonian Forest have been transformed into parks, arboreta or race tracks. These sites make the Sonian Forest rich in landscapes and habitats.
Forest habitats 9120, 9160, 9130 en 91E0 are best represented. Moreover, habitats 6430 en 6510 are being expanded.
Keystone species: Daubenton's Bat (Myotis daubentonii), Leisler's Bat (Nyctalus leisleri), European pine marten (Martes martes), Ground beetle (Carabus coriaceus), Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus) and Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber).
Fauna (mega) species present: Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and Highland cattle.
Aim and vision: The project ‘Dead Supports Life’ paved the way to enable leaving dead animals in Belgian nature and restore the community of species which rely on this food source. The LIFE+ OZON project is realizing different green infrastructures such as a wildlife crossing of 60m wide.
By applying several defragmentation techniques, the densities of wild species will increase. Moreover, forest edges will be restored and open areas will be created. Finally, recreation will be directed towards less sensitive areas with touristic infrastructures (such as the area in which Highland cattle is present).
Uniqueness of the project: The Sonian Forest is a unique beech forest because the soil is undisturbed since the last Ice Age. Moreover, it is the largest forest of Flanders and located at the edge of Brussels, the capital of Europe. So its well-being is essential for wildlife and tourism/recreation.
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Enabled the natural increase of currently present herbivores (roe deer), and brought in more large herbivores; Supported roe deer and wild boar by making inventories, management of forest edges and LIFE+ OZON defragmentation project (to allow safe passage of all types of animals in the forest); The LIFE+ OZON project constructed three different types of ecological infrastructures over or under the Brussels Ring (R0) and E411: a wildlife crossing, four tree bridges and three ecotunnels. The design of the 60m wide wildlife crossing reflects the natural character of the oak-beech forest (to be built in 2016). Moreover, 18 existing tunnels and culverts are repaired and an ecofence built along both sides of the highway.
Results so far: Three Highland cattle and increased population of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), fox (Vulpes vulpes) and wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Inspirational value: Combination of wildlife protection, research and eco-tourism/recreation, in an area so close to urban life.
Experience you would like to share: Re-introduction of Highland cattle; Defragmentation activities (part of "LIFE+ OZON project"); Expertise from the "Dead supports Life" project on road kills
Experience you would like to gain: Cattle management when living in semi-wild conditions: year round, less/no supplemental feeding; Novel wildlife crossing opportunities; Leaving dead animals in nature: monitoring activities, communication about it to general public
Map
Country
Belgium
Start year
2008
Size (ha)
4421
Area type
Temperate deciduous forest
Natural process
Predation

The Sonian forest is an Atlantic acidophilous beech forest and consists of 4,400 hectares top European nature, connected to Brussels. It is the destination of several million visitors each year and the habitat of several Natura 2000 species.

Map
Country
Belgium
Start year
2008
Size (ha)
4421
Area type
Temperate deciduous forest
Natural process
Predation
Specification
Project: Sonian Forest
Region: Sonian Forest, near Brussels
Type of protection: SCI: BE2400008, SPA: BE2400008
Habitat types: The Sonian Forest has a variety of trees of different ages. The forest mainly consists of beech trees, which dominate with approximately 70 percent of the Sonian Forest. Throughout the course of history, parts of the Sonian Forest have been transformed into parks, arboreta or race tracks. These sites make the Sonian Forest rich in landscapes and habitats.
Forest habitats 9120, 9160, 9130 en 91E0 are best represented. Moreover, habitats 6430 en 6510 are being expanded.
Keystone species: Daubenton's Bat (Myotis daubentonii), Leisler's Bat (Nyctalus leisleri), European pine marten (Martes martes), Ground beetle (Carabus coriaceus), Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus) and Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber).
Fauna (mega) species present: Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and Highland cattle.
Description
Aim and vision: The project ‘Dead Supports Life’ paved the way to enable leaving dead animals in Belgian nature and restore the community of species which rely on this food source. The LIFE+ OZON project is realizing different green infrastructures such as a wildlife crossing of 60m wide.
By applying several defragmentation techniques, the densities of wild species will increase. Moreover, forest edges will be restored and open areas will be created. Finally, recreation will be directed towards less sensitive areas with touristic infrastructures (such as the area in which Highland cattle is present).
Uniqueness of the project: The Sonian Forest is a unique beech forest because the soil is undisturbed since the last Ice Age. Moreover, it is the largest forest of Flanders and located at the edge of Brussels, the capital of Europe. So its well-being is essential for wildlife and tourism/recreation.
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Enabled the natural increase of currently present herbivores (roe deer), and brought in more large herbivores; Supported roe deer and wild boar by making inventories, management of forest edges and LIFE+ OZON defragmentation project (to allow safe passage of all types of animals in the forest); The LIFE+ OZON project constructed three different types of ecological infrastructures over or under the Brussels Ring (R0) and E411: a wildlife crossing, four tree bridges and three ecotunnels. The design of the 60m wide wildlife crossing reflects the natural character of the oak-beech forest (to be built in 2016). Moreover, 18 existing tunnels and culverts are repaired and an ecofence built along both sides of the highway.
Results so far: Three Highland cattle and increased population of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), fox (Vulpes vulpes) and wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Exchange
Inspirational value: Combination of wildlife protection, research and eco-tourism/recreation, in an area so close to urban life.
Experience you would like to share: Re-introduction of Highland cattle; Defragmentation activities (part of "LIFE+ OZON project"); Expertise from the "Dead supports Life" project on road kills
Experience you would like to gain: Cattle management when living in semi-wild conditions: year round, less/no supplemental feeding; Novel wildlife crossing opportunities; Leaving dead animals in nature: monitoring activities, communication about it to general public
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