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European natural treasure

With the expansion of the Zwin plain, Flanders and the Netherlands are jointly fulfilling a number of European and bilateral obligations. For example, there is the Development Outline 2010 (Ontwikkelingsschets 2010) for the Scheldt estuary (www.vnsc.eu), which stipulates that additional nature needs to be restored in the Scheldt estuary.

 

 

For the same reason, the work being carried out in the Netherlands forms part of the ‘Natuurpakket Westerschelde’. Via the expansion, both countries will be able to meet their European nature-related goals. At the European level, the Zwin forms an essential part of the Natura 2000 network of European nature reserves (www.natura2000.vlaanderen.be and www.natura2000.nl).

Nature restoration in the existing is Zwin plain

In order to allow nature to be restored in the existing Zwin plain, from 2011 to 2015, in this zone, the LIFE+ natuurherstelproject ZTAR (Zwin Tidal Area Restoration) project will be carried out. The goal of ZTAR is to bring the typical estuary plants and animals back to the Zwin, by ensuring that the seawater is able to flow in and out of the Zwin more easily. Partners involved in the project include the Agency for Nature and Forests and the Province of Zeeland, which are receiving financial support from the European Union.

The first two ZTAR actions on the Flemish side, specifically, the restoration of the Zwin lagoon and of the tidal flats, were carried out in 2012-2013. The lagoon was excavated and channels were filled, and a new, controllable dam was installed. At the same time, the islands were restored as separate islands for breeding birds, and the top layer was removed on the high salt marsh in order to restore the tidal flats.

In the spring of 2014 all of these efforts paid off: breeding birds such as the Avocet and the Common Tern returned again to breed and the typical, rare plants of the tidal flats once again felt at home in the Zwin.

The last major action, the deepening and widening of the estuary and the main channel of the Zwin, will be realised during the expansion work.

In 2015, in Knokke-Heist and Sluis, an exhibit will be mounted on the ZTAR. This will be followed by an international workshop, where experts will be able to share information on the creation and management of tidal areas (www.lifeztar.be).

Sustainable management in the future

Just before the summer of 2014, a cross-border ‘regional vision for the enlarged  Zwin’ (gebiedsvisie voor het uitgebreide Zwin) was approved in Flanders. This contains elements such as a management plan for the Flemish part of the Zwin. On the Dutch side, the management plan for the Dutch zone and the adjacent Kievittenpolder is nearly complete. Both plans, which have been coordinated with one another, set down exactly how, in the decades to come, the zone can be sustainably managed, and they convert the European nature related goals into concrete policy measures. On the Flemish side, the management will be the responsibility of the Agency for Nature and Forests, and on the Dutch side, of the Zeeuwse Landscape Foundation (Stichting Het Zeeuwse Landschap).