Liereman - Habitat restoration in Landschap De Liereman

LIFE04 NAT/BE/000010

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Joost Dewyspelaere
Tel: 15 32 297220
Email: joost.dewyspelaere@natuurpunt.be

Project description:


De Liereman is a complex area of habitats in Flanders laid out in a mosaic pattern. It includes wet depressions and steep continental dunes. The ecological gradients between sandy, loamy and peaty soils and the associated vegetation communities make this an outstanding landscape. After the deforestation of the Middle Ages, heathland developed in combination with small-scale grasslands and arable fields within a context of low intensity farming.

However, when the market for pine increased in the 19th century - timber was urgently needed for the shafts in the coal mines - the depressions were drained and the dunes were afforested with pine to better exploit the land. In the 20th century, agricultural intensification further affected the heathlands and semi-natural grassland, which only survived as relicts inside nature reserves. Most of the oligotrophic lakes disappeared or were turned into fishponds. Small wet heathlands, mire vegetations - small raised bogs and Cladium mariscus vegetations - and brook forests remained, but suffered from desiccation and increased fertilization. The former important Nardetalia grasslands only survived as tiny relicts along road verges.

Thus, by the end of the 20th century, the Liereman had lost most of its conservation value to habitat fragmentation, conifer plantations, changes in the natural hydrology and lack of appropriate land use. The project beneficiary had been making efforts since the early 1980s to restore, protect and manage parts of the Liereman, but larger-scale efforts were needed.


The Liereman project set out to restore the natural values of the De Liereman complex of habitats - from dry heathland on the hills to oligotrophic ponds in the bottom of the valleys - through a large-scale coordinated programme of action.

The project sought to deliver a comprehensive management plan to reduce habitat fragmentation and start restoration works. Large conifer plantations would be cleared and a number of cottages removed from strategic locations to enable the natural redevelopment of heath. Locally, cleared areas would be sod-cut to restore the humid-depression fen vegetations of wet heath and, on the slopes, the rare Nardetalia vegetations. Filled and drained oligotrophic ponds would be restored.

To support and enable these actions, the project foresaw the purchase of 132 ha of land. The aim was that this initial investment should enable the beneficiary to start the long-term sustainable management of the site, including controlling visitor access to the more fragile areas.


The project succeeded in purchasing and restoring key areas of the De Liereman habitat. It engaged well with local stakeholders to deliver a coherent management plan that should enable ongoing preservation of the target heathland habitats into the future.

The project team started by conducting a detailed hydrological study of the project sites. This involved collation of existing data and collection of additional data by means of small-diameter observation wells (piezometers). They modelled the geo-hydrology - infiltration areas, seepage areas and water flows - and applied the model to test five different possible management scenarios for restoring the habitat.

The project also developed a concept of sustainable recreational land-use and conducted soil analyses. The studies helped inform negotiations with authorities and stakeholders on the agreement of an integral management plan based on relocating the Lieremansloop - the main watercourse crossing the site containing eutrophic water leaching from farmland.

Based on the findings, the beneficiary purchased over 143 ha of land - mainly pine plantations or agricultural land - for habitat restoration. This exceeded the target of 132 ha and helped incorporate strategic sites and reduce fragmentation. The implementation of the management plan led to the following habitat restoration actions:

  • Removal of trees and the litter layer and sod cutting over 44.55 ha;
  • Removal of invasive black cherry trees (Prunus serotina), local deep mowing and sod cutting over 52.6 ha;
  • Sod cutting over 57.17 ha;
  • Removal of the topsoil layer or intensive mowing and grazing to reduce the dominance of velvet grass (Holcus lanatus) over 21.61 ha;
  • Digging of two retention basins to reduce the frequency of flooding of the nutrient rich rivers;
  • Relocation of the Lintloop by construction of a dam and dredging of a deeper creek;
  • Restoration of five oligotrophic ponds, including removal of surrounding exotic conifers and bank repairs;
  • Thirty-four cottages were demolished and removed in co-operation with a social employment project;

For the ongoing management of the mosaic of habitats - including continental dunes, heathland and Nardus grassland - the project introduced extensive grazing over 131.26 ha, intensive mowing over 82.56 ha and small-scale mowing over 10.26 ha. Tree saplings were removed from 15.35 ha to control reforestation. The success of the management actions was shown by the return of important fauna and flora, including the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita, formerly Bufo calamita), European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), Drosera sp. and Ranunculus ololeucos.

New hiking trails were constructed and information on the area provided to visitors to encourage ongoing engagement from local people. The project has led to the Flemish Region agreeing to conduct a complementary study and nature project to deviate more creeks and further the management and conservation of the project area.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Heath and Scrublands


drainage system‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  land purchase‚  informal negotiation‚  restoration measure‚  conflicting use‚  recreational area‚  grassland ecosystem‚  landscape conservation policy‚  wetlands ecosystem‚  site rehabilitation‚  integrated management‚  tourist facility‚  forestry‚  forest management‚  land restoration

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...

Target species

 Bufo calamita   Caprimulgus europaeus   Lullula arborea   Luronium natans   Rana arvalis   

Target Habitat types

  • 7120 - Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration
  • 7150 - Depressions on peat substrates of the Rhynchosporion
  • 9190 - Old acidophilous oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains
  • 91D0 - Bog woodland
  • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"
  • 2310 - Dry sand heaths with Calluna and Genista
  • 2330 - Inland dunes with open Corynephorus and Agrostis grasslands
  • 3130 - Oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters with vegetation of the Littorelletea uniflorae and/or of the Isoëto-Nanojuncetea
  • 4010 - Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix
  • 4030 - European dry heaths
  • 6230 - "Species-rich Nardus grasslands, on silicious substrates in mountain areas (and submountain areas in Continental Europe)"

Natura 2000 sites

SCI BE2100024 Vennen, heiden en moerassen rond Turnhout
SPA BE2101538 Arendonk, Merksplas, Oud-Turnhout, Ravels en Turnhout



Coordinator Natuurpunt Beheer v.z.w.
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description Natuurpunt is a nature preservation NGO with 80 000 members. It manages 16 000 ha of land, including 450 nature reserves spread across Flanders.
Partners Toerisme Oud-Turnhout vzw, Belgium


Project reference LIFE04 NAT/BE/000010
Duration 01-JAN-2004 to 30-SEP -2010
Total budget 3,819,358.00 €
EU contribution 1,521,350.00 €
Project location Vlaams Gewest(België - Belgique)


Read more:

Project web site Beneficiary's website (NL)
Project web site Project's website
Publication: Layman report Layman report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version