Flanders has endorsed the European objective to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. This report evaluates the present state of nature in Flanders by reporting on 22 biodiversity indicators which give the closest interpretation of the 26 European biodiversity indicators proposed by the European Environment Agency (EEA 2007).
Components of biodiversity and integrity of ecosystems
Very specific habitats degrade to more common, usually nutrient-rich habitats. As a consequence,
many rare species, restricted to these specific habitats, are declining. Examples are the species mentioned
in the Annexes of the Habitats Directive. Many farmland species (e.g. Skylark) are also suffering
from habitat change. On the other hand, a number of common species such as Magpie and some
alien species such as Black Cherry, are increasing. As a result, variation in biodiversity decreases.
Freshwater biodiversity (e.g. fish, water plants) declined sharply during the last century, although a significant
improvement has been noticed during the last decade (e.g. fish, dragonflies). Woodland birds
have also fared better in recent times (e.g. woodpeckers).
Protected areas and sustainable management
The Flemish government deploys a series of instruments for the conservation and sustainable use of
biodiversity. Nature reserves, forest management plans and agri-environmental schemes exist, but it is
difficult to meet surface area targets. Flanders has designated 7.5 % of its territory as Sites of
Community Interest under the EU Habitats Directive. This is less than the European average, but more
than the surrounding economic top regions. Defragmentation of water courses is in progress, but not
fast enough to achieve the Benelux target of free fish migration by 2010.
Protected areas are small and fragmented. Flemish agriculture is amongst the most productive in
Europe, but it scores badly in terms of biodiversity. Sprawling urbanisation and intensifying agriculture
exacerbate the negative impact of habitat fragmentation. Nitrogen residues on arable land, atmospheric
nitrogen deposition, and phosphorus concentrations in rivers are amongst the highest in Europe.
Thanks to policy efforts, the problems caused by spreading farm manure have decreased, although the
decline in the practice has slowed in recent years. Meanwhile, there are indications that climate
change is starting to affect nature in Flanders and the number of alien species in Flanders increases
by 25 species a year. As these two new threats are on a global scale, they are difficult to manage.
Footprint and public support
The consumption footprint of an average Flemish inhabitant is beyond that which our planet can offer
everyone. Membership of nature related clubs and societies is on the increase, although the number
of actual visits to forests and nature areas is declining slightly.