Loss of wetlands since the 1950’s and their restoration potential in Flanders (Belgium): A GIS and ecosystem service exercise

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    Abstract

    Flanders is a flat and densely populated region in the northern part of Belgium. Together with the Netherlands it is known as ‘the low countries’ of Western Europe and, by nature, it therefore used to contain a large area of wetlands. We reconstructed the occurrence of different types of wetlands based on detailed soil maps from the 1950’s and 60’s. It is estimated that Flanders lost about 75% of its wetlands during the past half century. About 17% was lost by urbanisation, the rest by drainage for mainly agricultural purposes. Recognizing the significant losses for biodiversity and the need to deal with more extreme flood events due to climate change and soil sealing, there is renewed interest in wetland restoration and floodplain functioning. We calculated that Flanders still has the potential to restore about 200.000ha of wetlands, 75% of them being potential wet floodplain and polder grasslands. In the hypothetical scenario that all wetlands of different types could be restored, we explored the consequences for the delivery of different ecosystem services to society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Thematic list

    • Environment
    • Management
    • Marshes
    • Ecosystem services

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