Excursion

The excursion will take us to the Haspengouw region (East of Belgium), a hilly countryside landscape with rich loamy soils. The region is rich in orchards and pollards. The first stop is in a region with small patches of ancient woodland. We will visit one of them : the forest reserve of Kolmont forest. The two next stops are situated in the village Voeren, close to the border with the Netherlands and Germany. Here we find larger ancient woodlands, most of them managed as forest reserves.

Kolmont

Kolmont is a small forest reserve (18 ha) surrounded by old orchards, both owned by the Flemish government. Despite its size, the site is a remarkable hotspot for saproxylic beetles. Between the 12th and the 15th century, a small castle stood on the top of this small steep hill, the remains of it can still be seen today. After this place lost it strategic importance, the forest was no longer intensively managed. From 1840, the forest and ruins were included in a romantic landscape park until it became public property in 1991. Since then the forest received a strict non-intervention management by the forest and nature administration, and the surrounding orchards were restored. 

The forest consists of a beech forest, but many other tree species are present as well. The amount of dead wood exceeds 40 m³/ha, including very large logs and snags and a total of 90 living trees with a DBH over 95 cm occur - almost all beech trees (density >5 trees/ha). 

In 2008-2009 a detailed and elaborate inventory of saproxylic beetles was made at Kolmont forest reserve. A total number of 824 species of Coleoptera were identified, including 315 saproxilics. The species list includes some remarkable species as Allecula rhenana, Abraeus parvulus, Cerophytum elateroides, Brachygonus megerlei, Elater ferrugineus, Mycridium halidaii, and Batrisodes buqueti. 


Valley of the Berwijn

The valley of the Berwijn is the most intact bocage landscape in Belgium and not surprisingly the last remaining stronghold of many saproxylic beetles. Only a small part of this valley lies in Flanders, and here an area of 14 ha is managed by the Flemish government. The area predominantly exist out of old orchards and a small steep afforested slope including some veteran trees. In order to safeguard the last badger lairs in Flanders this and some nearby sites were bought in 1996. 

In order to restore the badger habitat, new fruit trees were planted and hedges and pollards restored. The badger was saved and now thrives again in the entire region. This management at Valley of the Berwijn, undeliberately, ensured the continuity of cavity trees. As such it is one of the few good examples where old hollow trees can be found next to 20 year old trees that start to form new cavities. As a result this is the ideal site to discuss management of halfopen landscapes. 

Concerning the saproxylic species little is known about the site. We were not able to rediscover Osmoderma eremita which was last seen in 2002 in the Wallonian part of this valley. Elater ferrugineus, however, is still frequently present. 


Veursbos


Only a few kilometres from Berwijn lies our next stop in Voeren. This 170 ha large forest is again owned by the Flemish government and managed as a forest reserve. The site was acquired in 2002 from the village, and managed as a forest reserve since then. The forest is well connected with other forest and nature reserves nearby. Veursbos is an ancient beech forest with a rich structure and tree species admixture. Locally, the soil is rich in calcium which makes the site unique for some orchids species like Orchis purpurea

In spite of it's short history as a forest reserve, the site is rich in thick trees and dead wood. In 2014-2015 a detailed inventory of saproxylic beetles is being made in Veursbos. Up to now, 587 beetle species have been recorded, including 231 dead wood depending species. Some remarkable species are Batrisodes oculatus, Hylis foveicollis and Rhizophagus grandis - to name a few. Hopefully we will be able to present the complete species list to you during the excursion.