Project background

Until the mid-nineteenth century, the High Ardennes region of Belgium consisted of vast areas of heathland and grasslands, shaped by agro-pastoral management with herds of sheep and cattle. In between the high pastures lay valleys where farmers used specific irrigation techniques (‘abissage’) for hay management. As these traditional methods became unprofitable, mechanisation and intensification increased. Areas where this was not feasible were abandoned or planted with conifers. This has resulted in fragmentation and even disappearance of semi-natural habitats and associated species.

Habitat changes at Limerlé (Eastern Belgium) over a century (between 1872 and 1988) - Comparing the three different military maps of the region, all the moorland areas disappear (in red in the last map) as well as large parts of humid grasslands valley (in mauve)

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