Something new in Brussels canal zone! Floating green islands have been launched in the Port of Brussels as part of the project that aims to boost biodiversity. The first of the green islands were installed near the BRYC at Van Praet.
On Tuesday 26 April, the Port of Brussels and Brussels Environment deployed the first green islands in the outer port of Brussels, in the presence of the Brussels Minister for the Environment Alain Maron. The installation of these vegetated islands meets a very concrete need: the canal is an artificial environment, with few possibilities for aquatic fauna, in particular calm and protected areas for spawning and the development of young fish.
Rainier Reekmans, Managing Director of the Port of Brussels emphasised the value of this initiative during the launch ceremony – “This ambitious project, worthy of major European cities that have already invested in such devices. It aims to recreate complex ecosystems which provide a significant contribution to the biodiversity of the canal and further strengthens its role and the role of the Port of Brussels for our region.”
Etienne Aulotte, head of the Nature development department of Brussels Environment noted the importance on collaboration – “This is a flagship project of the partnership between Brussels Environment and the Port of Brussels, established within the framework of the Regional Nature Plan. It is associated with other actions such as the revegetation of the banks or the reception of biodiversity in the adjacent areas, contributing to the development of nature near the canal.” The Brussels Environment nature facilitator carried out the feasibility study necessary for the realization of this project. This focused in particular on the possible sites, the type of islands to be installed, taking into account the eddies caused by the passage of boats, the width and depth of the canal, the presence of weirs or even animal species evolving on these sites.
Brussels Minister for Climate Transition and the Environment Alain Maron stated the role of the port in the revitalisation of the canal zone while ensuring sustainable mobility: “These vegetated rafts, already in place in many cities, form real refuges for biodiversity and participate in the revitalisation of the canal. All these initiatives of the Port of Brussels and Brussels Environment, the implementation of which does not hinder navigation, are essential to restore the canal’s function as an ecological corridor.”
“With its 80 hectares of water, the Port of Brussels plays a major role in the fight against climate change by combining economic activity based on sustainable mobility with ambitious environmental measures to strengthen biodiversity.”Brussels Minister for Climate Transition and the Environment Alain Maron
The islands, manufactured by the company Biomatrix (Scotland – United Kingdom), were launched after being assembled by the company Ecocean, based in Montpellier (Hérault – France). It is worth noting that fifteen children from the Arc-en-ciel primary school in Saint-Josse who were the winners of the “Journée pyjama” photo competition, helped in their creation.
Boosting biodiversity in the Brussels canal
This project will have numerous positive effects on the biodiversity of the canal. In addition to the emerged part lined with wetland plants, interesting for insects, Biohut® submerged cages, manufactured by Ecocéan from 100% recyclable and recycled materials, will provide valuable shelter for aquatic fauna and increase the chances of survival of young fish. They will also offer protection to the fish against predators and a source of food necessary for the continuation of their development. These cages will also be quickly colonized by micro-organisms (algae, crustaceans) which will serve as food for the larvae and young fish.
A true first in our capital, these lush green islands will boost biodiversity on the canal and make way for animals and plants to thrive. And the water-filtering plants will improve water quality.port of brussels
The vegetated floating rafts will contribute to promoting the biodiversity of the canal, above and below the water, by creating new habitats for fish, amphibians, birds, insects and plants. This is an ambitious pilot project and a strong symbol, coinciding with the launch of the “Month of Nature” by Brussels Environment.
During this week, 7 modules of 224 m² in total, created from coconut fibers and covered with around fifteen plants* per m² (including the emblematic Iris), coupled with around twenty submerged cages, will be installed along the visitor pontoon of the Brussels Royal Yacht Club, at a cost of €170,000. If this first one-year test phase proves conclusive, it could lead to the installation of an additional 440 m2. An initiative made possible thanks to funding from the Brussels-Capital Region, as part of the management contract for the Port of Brussels, and more particularly the new environmental policies that are part of it.
This work is the result of an agreement signed in 2019 between the Port of Brussels and Brussels Environment in order to promote biodiversity in the Canal area. The Nature Facilitator of Brussels Environment carried out the feasibility study for this project. The maintenance of the installed devices will be carried out by the ‘Canal it up’ association, which has been active for several years now in their efforts to clean and green up the canal zone.
Ecological monitoring of these rafts will also be carried out. Naturalist divers will draw up an assessment, one year after their installation. They will also identify the species that have colonized the structures.
This is one of the largest European projects combining both vegetated floating islands and submerged cages, participating in the creation of complex ecosystems and thus making it possible to restore the functional local ecosystem in the canal.
Interested to know more? Visit Port of Brussels website to learn more about the major activities in the canal zone.