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Belgium - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


Belgium is divided into 3 major areas: the Lower Belgium in the North, flat and dominated by agriculture and animal breeding; the Middle Belgium in the Center, dominated by urban areas, industries and some agriculture; and the Upper Belgium in the South, with wooded plateaus and some cattle rearing. There are 22,800 documented animal species of an estimated 35,000 total, whereas there are between 17,000 and 18,500 plant species, of which 20 to 25% are not yet documented. Between one third and half of these species are threatened or extinct, such as the Ortolan Bunting, the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Yellow-bellied Toad. The main threats to biodiversity are fragmentation and destruction of habitats, pollution and eutrophication, climate change, invasive alien species and perturbation due to tourism and recreational activities

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Natura 2000 sites cover approximately 12.6% of the country whereas natural and forest reserves cover 1.1% of the territory. Natura 2000 sites do not benefit from strict conservation rules like natural reserves, but help to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity.

Percentage of Forest Cover

In the Flemish region, 8-10% of the area is forested, but the forests are very fragmented. More than half of the forests are less than 100 ha. In the Wallon region, 32% of the area is forested with most of it considered productive areas

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Belgium has undertaken many initiatives to meet the 2010 biodiversity target, including the designation of Natura 2000 sites and the current establishment of marine protected areas, which will cover 7% of the Belgian North Sea surface. A sustainable master plan is being prepared for the Belgian marine zone, of which phase 1 and 2 are developed and adopted. Objectives regarding the protection of ecosystems have been integrated in the Flemish Environment and Nature Policy Plans as well as in legislation based on Natura 2000. The first Federal Plan for Sustainable Development (2000-2004) is promoting organic farming, nutrient loads reduction, and the enforcement of CITES. With regards to genetic diversity, there is a project for the development of a cryobank for breeding animals, as well as a programme on regional fruit tree genetic resources. Management plans are in place for major alien species such the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), the coypu (Myocastor coypus), the black cherry (Prunus), the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) and Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus). The use of pesticides in public domains and parks is forbidden since 2004 and farmers receive subsidies through the Rural Development Programme to enlarge and maintain natural borders along their lands and to use manual or mechanised systems instead of chemicals. The transboundary Flemish Region – Netherlands project integrates objectives related to climate change through the flood control programme, so as to give more space to the river and its natural dynamics, and to maintain and enhance resilience of the components of biodiversity to adapt to climate change.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

In the Flemish region, an ecological network of 125,000 ha and an interweaving area of 150,000 ha was designed. Nature Objectives Plans for these as well as for the Natura 2000 sites will be elaborated by 2008. The Flemish community, together with NGOs, will be making the acquisition of 3,000 ha/year of nature areas to be recognized as reserves. With reference to the management of river basins, one initiative is the protection of an extra 200 ha riparian buffer zone / bank area. In the Walloon region, Natura 2000 site designations took place in 2002 and now cover 13% of the area. For each hydrographical basin, the Water Code requires the elaboration of one or more registers of protected zones in that basin. Furthermore, the Nature Direction continues the designation of wetlands of biological interest, underground cavities of scientific interest, forest reserves, domanial and private nature reserves and sites of high biological interest. In terms of inland water protection, 3 new sites have been added to the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. The blue network programme, which is guiding the Brussels Capital Region policy on small open water systems, has for main goal the restoration and valorisation of small rivers and marshy areas and humid sites in an ecological way. In the North Sea, the establishment of 5 marine protected areas is underway and takes place within the framework of the Law on the marine environment. Two Habitats Directive and three Birds Directive zones are under designation.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Some support to indigenous and local communities exists, mainly through NGO development cooperation, but essentially in education and institutional strengthening of local organizations. Some of the ongoing projects supported by the Flemish Fund for Tropical Forests are particularly emphasizing this aspect. The Belgian Development Cooperation indirectly supports, through NGO’s, a large number of local associations (peasants, indigenous, youth organizations, etc.) in several countries. Although biodiversity issues are not at the forefront of these projects, which focus on socio-cultural, economic and political aspects, biodiversity may be an underlying issue in some of them.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme