Integration of ecosystem services in the planning of a flood control area in Stevoort, Belgium

Area characterisation: 

The project area of Stevoort (150 ha) is a designated flood control area located in the City of Hasselt (Region of Flanders, Belgium), in the Atlantic Region. It is part of the wider valley around the rivers Herk and Mombeek and their tributaries. Land use is characterised by semi-natural grasslands (58%), forests (32%), water and swamps (5%), agricultural land (3%), residential area (1%) and other green areas (1%). There is an interesting potential for nature development. Much of the land is privately owned, so a large part of the implementation depends on mobilising interested stakeholders and private land owners. Flemish Environment Agency (VMM) and other government agencies have the mandate and capacity to implement only a limited part of the agreed plans.

Objective: 

Formulating a widely supported vision for developing a sustainable flood control area. To gain local support, local and societal needs were taken into consideration. Also, possible disservices needed to be tackled, while developing valuable nature values.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

By considering more ecosystem services and opinions of different stakeholders, it is expected that this will result in a sustainable and widely accepted vision. In the long run, it is expected that the water managers involved will consider more stakeholder opinions about possible benefits of flood control areas compared to their standard practise, by using some of the ecosystem services tools.

Transferability of the result: 

The results are relevant for other areas that want to integrate different ecosystem services in the planning of a flood control area. Although the results are rather case-specific and not easily transferable to other locations, lessons learned can be inspirational for similar cases elsewhere.

Lessons learned: 

It is important to confront scientific Ecosystem Services assessments regularly with the practical needs from (local) stakeholders in an interactive feedback process. Desired habitats do not always coincide with the areas with highest Ecosystem Services potential.~