Brussels’ new ecoduct will remove barriers for animals in the Hallerbos forest
This week regional authorities in Belgium have announced that they will construct an ecoduct – a green connection between the two sections of the Hallerbos forest near Brussels. The connection should help both animals to travel freely in the forest, which is now cut by the Brussels ring – a metropolitan highway.
The project has just been approved by the Flemish government as the construction site is outside of the Brussels Capital Region. Construction is set to start in 2023 with the end date estimated in 2025.
The forest is suffering from barriers
Barriers are one of the most important factors in nature: rivers, mountains and seas can serve as hard stops for any species to move to a given location. Increasingly, humans are contributing to the division of non-urbanised land, as our roads and suburban sprawl creep into shrinking habitats.
Highways are one such barrier, with fences and multiple crowded lanes, they can split the population of a biome very drastically, separating animals from food sources. According to a study in the Hallerbos (a big natural reserve and forest at the edge of Brussels), this is exactly what is happening.
The study was conducted by the Flemish Environment Department and it showed that there are 275 animals of various species in the forest. However, the populations on both sides of the forest, split by the Brussels Ring, were radically different.
The ecoduct aims to create more opportunities for both sides to link naturally and strengthen local biodiversity, also increasing the habitat of the animals.
Crossing the highway in peace
The new design for the bridge will be 65 metres wide, to offer enough space for all that want to cross, both pedestrians and animals. However, only five metres from the site will be dedicated to ‘human’ infrastructure, with a pedestrian and cycling lane.
Animals will have free reign over the other 60 metres, enough space to let them cross without any fear. The earthen walls of the highway are three metres tall and the bridge will be at that elevated position, to allow a smooth transition. Additionally, the trees that need to be felled to make way for the construction, will gain a new lease on life as part of the barrier between the human infrastructure and the rest of the ecoduct.