Capital of the European Union, champion of biodiversity policy

19 February 2013 | Article

Despite the high level of urbanization and a population of more than a million, the Brussels Capital Region situated in the centre of Belgium is a green area with nearly 50% of its surface free of constructions.

Remarkable is the amount of private gardens and parks covering 20% of Brussels’ land and the many public green spaces. The ancient and beautiful beech Sonian Forest covers almost 10 % of the city’s territory. Besides their extension, green areas are home to rich biodiversity: about 15% the of city’s territory consists of green spaces with high biological value. The diversity in biotopes results in unexpected flora and fauna richness with about 42 species of mammals (of which 17 bat species), 100 bird species and nearly 800 plant species.

The city’s main contribution to the conservation of its biodiversity is the implementation of the European Habitats Directive, with the designation of 14% of its surface as Natura 2000 sites: three coherent network areas, composed of “core” and “connecting” stations.

In 2012, the Brussels Government adopted new and innovative nature legislation specific to its urban context. The new piece of legislation is a codification of existing nature protection rules which has been updated to comply with current international policy. But that’s not all. The legislation introduces a new concept of nature conservation.

Replacing sanctuary nature zones and inaccessible nature reserves, the new legislation promotes the concept of nature integration. In other terms efforts are made for nature to be incorporated in the built environment, promoting the coexistence with people and their human activities.

The new policy requires regional planning through regular surveys and monitoring of flora and fauna, and the mapping of nature and biodiversity which are at the basis of the Nature Report (to be revised every five years).

The Nature Report presents Brussels as the “Green City, Nature City”. It provides information on the state of natural sites, flora and fauna, the main threats and the political and legal framework for biodiversity conservation. It analyses the challenges for nature conservation in the city and provides recommendations.

Another provision of the new legislation is the development of a “Nature Plan”, based on the Nature Report outcomes and aiming to guide Brussels’ nature policy in the coming years. The Plan is now under development in collaboration with all stakeholders (regional and local administration, NGOs, private owners, Nature Council, citizens), and it is expected to be presented in mid-2013. Learn more with this video.

The Nature Plan focuses on five strategic issues: preserving the key elements of biodiversity in Brussels; developing the ecological network; integrating biodiversity into urban development; enhancing experiencing nature in Brussels; and reinforcing biodiversity policy.

Nature Report - Synthesis (FR/NL) 

Nature Report - full :