The Scheldt estuary consists of a unique interplay of water and land. The result is unique natural beauty.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges strives to achieve a balance between economic growth and consideration for nature. Did you know that there are various nature reserves in and around the port area, where you can find a unique variety of plant and animal species? There are also hundreds of acres of nature in the form of ecological infrastructure: a mix of nature and other functions.
The Scheldt estuary, the tidal estuary of the Western Scheldt, consists of a unique interplay of water and land. The result is unique natural beauty. The complete estuary, from Ghent to Vlissingen, spreads over 92,000 hectares of protected nature. The gradual transition from fresh to salt water, the tidal effects and the numerous mudflats and salt marshes make the Scheldt area a valuable biotope for plants and animals. The port area in Antwerp has 580 hectares of protected nature.
To protect and manage the nature reserves, Port of Antwerp-Bruges has been working with Natuurpunt in the Antwerp port area since 2001. Natuurpunt is the largest nature conservation organisation in Belgium.
Among other things, this non-governmental organisation works to protect important biotopes, species and landscapes, including those in the Antwerp port area. It does this, for example, by monitoring the plants and animals present and giving advice on the further management of and approach to the nature-rich areas in the port.
With the 'Port of Antwerp more natural' project, Natuurpunt and Port of Antwerp-Bruges are also working to strengthen the ecological infrastructure in the port area without hindering the development of economic activity. Examples include establishing habitat areas for the natterjack toad, constructing a fish spawning area, establishing nesting sites for sand martins, and many other actions for a wide range of different species.
The collaboration with Natuurpunt has been renewed for the period 2021-2024. The organisation is responsible for monitoring the management of the ecological infrastructure network.
Due to its location on the Scheldt and the specific terrains that are found there, surprising species live in the port area. For example, you will find the largest population of natterjack toads in Flanders, the extremely rare yellow widelip orchid grows there and the Mediterranean gull comes to breed here. No less than 90 protected species have their habitat in the port.
The collaboration with Natuurpunt also takes shape via a species protection programme. This is a multi-year programme consisting of a range of measures to protect endangered or unique plant and animal species. The focus is on achieving conditions necessary to sustain a viable population of a given species.
The 2014-2019 species protection programme set out measures for the conservation of 14 species. This resulted in 111 different projects. Some projects also took place in collaboration with private companies in the port. A new species protection programme has been drafted for the period 2022-2027.
With the agricultural innovation fund we want to support farmers' projects in the Waasland region who are willing to adapt their agricultural activities so that they are economically profitable and contribute to biodiversity. We want to give a boost to this biodiversity by growing crops that require less fertilisation and pesticides or less intensive tillage.
Such agricultural adaptations contribute to the soil life, moisture retention capacity, and the capacity for soil tillage. We expect that these evolutions will be beneficial for the farmer's income and for nature. On the left bank of the Scheldt, the marsh harrier often comes into view, but of course we don't overlook other precious nature and landscape assets.
The mudflats and salt marshes are home to fish, crabs and birds. Konik horses, sheep and cows graze undisturbed in the grasslands. A number of these animals and plants are mainly or exclusively present in the Antwerp port area. You wouldn't immediately think of it, but unusual species such as the natterjack toad, sand martin and swift, common tern and rare orchids are found here.
This mudflat and salt marsh area is affected by the tides: approximately every 12.5 hours at high tide, all or part of it floods with brackish water (a mixture of fresh and salt water). It is an area with specially adapted plants and animals, which are resistant to salt water. During the migratory and winter period you can count more than 150,000 waterfowl here.
The areas themselves are not accessible because they are flooded twice a day, but there is a bird-watching hut in the Groot Buitenschoor.
The nature reserve has open water, reed swamp and forest. There you will primarily find reed and marsh birds and waterfowl.
Accessible to walkers via the towpath along the Channel bassin (lookout point) and via the Reigersbosdreef. From the towpath there are steps to the lookout point, views of the nature and port area. Walking path from the Berendrecht dike to the viewing wall.
The nature reserve has open water, reed swamp and grasslands and is a haven for waterfowl. In late summer, thousands of waterfowl flock together, including gadwalls, teals, shovelers, wigeons, tufted ducks, and smews.
Not accessible to the public. Natuurpunt, the manager of the area, regularly organises walks on Sunday mornings. There are 2 viewing huts and 5 viewing walls. Some of these are wheelchair accessible.
The area has open water, reed swamp and grassland. You will find mostly waterfowl and typical reed birds. Both areas are important core areas for the natterjack toad. The Groot Rietveld has one of the largest populations of marsh orchids. The Kallo Rietveld is still under development.
The Groot Rietveld is only accessible on the paths and is not accessible to wheelchair users. There are two accesses along the Kwarikweg and one along the Scheldedijk. The Kallo Rietveld is accessible on the paths, also for wheelchair users, with the exception of the steep buffer dike. There are two accesses along the Melseledijk and two along the Gasthuisstraat.
A valuable nature reserve within the Zeebrugge port area is the western bank of the Boudewijn canal from the Ter Doest area to Zwankendamme. Just outside the boundaries of the coastal port area you will find several natural areas that are accessible to the general public.