After the celebration of the IMPACT closing event that took place in Brussels in the framework of the EU Week of Regions & Cities, IMPACT partners had the opportunity to learn from first-hand the management of the Sonian Forest, a Periurban forest located at the doors of Brussels.
The Sonian Forest is an ancient forest, with 200 year-old beech trees that were planted during the Austrian period. It is a Natura 2000 site, which hosts 15 different species of bats, protected by the Habitats Directive. Its 5,000 hectares are divided between the country’s three regions (Flanders (56%), the Brussels-Capital Region (38%), and Wallonia (6%)); each of which has its own management plan. Brussels Environment manages the part of the Sonian Forest located in Brussels Region.
At present, one of the challenges foresters are dealing with is climate change adaptation. The Sonian Forest is quite mono-specific. It is basically composed of 200 yr old beech trees, which raises concern of the resilience of the forest to climate change. This is why, the managing entity is trying to diversify the number of species of trees by favoring the growth of oaks, which are better adapted to higher temperatures and water scarcity.
Periurban Forests contribute to sustainable socio-economic development. The Sonian Forest is the scenery in which many outdoor activities and sports take place. It receives several million visitors each year, among which sport practitioners, families, groups and the school community.
Besides, the Sonian Forest delivers many other benefits to the city of Brussels in terms of climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection, health and general wellbeing of citizens, among others. This is why Periurban Parks may have a role in several EU policies, as indicated in the position paper, Periurban Parks, their role in EU policies. This paper was briefly presented during the workshop "Making an IMPACT - Putting protected areas at the heart of EU policies for the sustainable development of regions and cities" , that took place in the framework of the EU Week of Regions & Cities.