The case study area is located within the municipalities of Balen, Geel, Meerhout and Mol (south east of the province of Antwerp). It covers 15000ha and is located in the northeastern part of Flanders, in the sandy region of the Kempen (the Campine region).

The area is dominated by northeast-southwest oriented parabolic land dunes located on the interfluvia of a series of parallel lowland rivers and brooks.
In historic times, the infertile sandy soils of the interfluvia and the land dunes were generally covered with heath and used for extensive grazing by cattle. The more fertile and wet soils closer to the valleys were mostly used for agricultural cultivation and housing, while the very wet soils along rivers and in upwelling areas were mostly left untouched.

During the 19th century, people started growing pines on the infertile grounds of the land dunes for usage in the mining industry, leading to the disappearance of large parts of the heathland. As population started growing in the course of 20th century, more and more of the wet valley bottoms were drained for agricultural purposes and housing.

Nowadays, the land dune area is still characterized by its pine forests constituting an important attraction value for tourists, extensive corn fields and moist to wet meadows, industrial activity around the channels, small city centers and ribbon development throughout the area.

Road map

The graphic reflects a snapshot of the Landduinen case study activity within the GIFT-T! method for planning GI (taking into account activities and tools shifting between regional and local level during the process).

 The case study followed the logical process as set out in the GIFT-T! methodology.

  • A community group was formed to seek local knowledge, ownership of process and results, and mandate for future action.
  • GI objectives for the inland dune region have been set out.
  • A mapping exercise was undertaken to provide a complete picture of green infrastructure in the case study area. All GI and Ecosystem services were mapped using GIS data to develop a series of maps (maps of actual and potential performance of ES). 
  • The GI objectives and priorities were used to develop three projects or business cases (Volsbergen, BIODIVA, storytrail).
  • In the Volsbergen case study a new method for GI planning has been applied
  • A GI business plan as final stage.
The community and its mission
10 partners wrapped their own ambitions, ideas, actions around a common mission and joined forces to work on sustainable, resilient multifunctional landscape giving answer to future challenges as climate change, drought, drinkwater reserves and the specific topic of the pinewoods on the inland dunes.
Mission is conserving and developing the high-quality nature and landscape of inland dunes region, as a sustainable and resilient landscape, with multifunctional purpose and use for all (ES based).
two strategic goals, namely:
  1. Sustainable development and maintenance of the landscape on a integrated and participatory basis,
  2. Search for new, alternative sustainable ways of financing landscape management are further detailed in tactical and operational goals on collaboration and co-ordination, co-creation and participatory ES based landscape quality standards setting, re-connecting people with landscape, financing by traditional and new mechanisms and by new alliances.
Within this framework 3 projects have been developed: the Volsbergen woods as a case study for creating multifunctional landscapes (stacking different ES), BIODIVA or businesses and biodiversity and the re-connecting project on cultural services.
Method for GI planning
On the regional level, for each ecosystem service a process-based model was built that allows to quantify the amount of the service that is delivered. The models are based on abiotic data (hydrology, soil texture, profile development, distance to source) as well as vegetative and management related data (vegetation, land use, drainage).

Then, The ES models have been applied in the Volsbergen case study, an inland dune covered with pinewoods and its surroundings.

Each of the quantitative measures is translated into a qualitative score of 0 (no delivery) to 5 (maximum delivery) so that a total sum of service delivery can be made and the effect of management choices on service delivery can be assessed.

A weighted sum has been applied based on stakeholder preferences. 1.37*WOOD+1.6*INFILTR+1.65*CARB+1.6*NUTR+1.74*AIR+1.49*POLL+0.7*AGR

The models together with the weighting function were then converted into a Bayesian belief network. One of the main advantages of these networks in ecological research is their ability to include uncertainties. They are however also very suitable for scenario building. On the one hand they can be used to estimate service delivery, allowing to compare different planning scenarios. On the other hand they can also point out which management option or land use delivers most services given the specific biophysical conditions of that area, and how much more services are being delivered compared to for example today’s management or land use.

Green Infrastructure Business Plan and digital maps of the Case study area.