Belgium designates a subterranean karst system and peatland
Grotte des Émotions and Hautes Fagnes added to the Ramsar List
In addition to the transboundary Wetland of International Importance recently designated in conjunction with Luxembourg, reported here, Belgium has also nominated an additional two sites, the Grotte des Émotions and Les Haute Fagnes, and sent along some very interesting photographs with the Ramsar Information Sheet data. Both are in the Province of Liège in the Région Wallone and are listed as Ramsar sites as of the date of the first submission of their nominations, 24 March 2003. Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Europe, Estelle Gironnet, has distilled these brief site descriptions from the Information Sheets:
Grotte des Émotions
The Grotte des Émotions (3 hectares, 50°24'N 005°34'E) is listed as a protected Cave of Scientific Interest. Discovered in 1995, the site is an unspoilt karst subterranean cave system, some 250m by 100m in overall extent but comprising a very complex network of chambers and passages more than 2000m long and with three main levels (45m high). It presents a great variety of karst phenomena and features that are of important scientific interest. Little is known of any flora or fauna that may be present. Access to the site is strictly regulated and only research and management activities are permitted. A special committee for the management of the cave has been established. Ramsar site no. 1406.
The "Salle des Douze". (Photos: Paul De Bie and Spéléoclub Avalon)
Overhead plan and side plan of the Grotte des Émotions.
See also http://users.skynet.be/avalon
Les Hautes Fagnes (6,000 ha; 50°32'N 006°06'E) has already been designated a. Nature Reserve, Natura 2000 Site, Biogenetic Reserve and is situated on a massif included within the transboundary Nature Park with Germany "Hautes Fagnes-Eifel". This largest peatland area in Belgium comprises 125 ha of active raised sphagnum bogs and supports rare plant and animal species depending on these habitats. The site plays an important role for the conservation of rare insects and birds; a significant number of threatened birds use the site for nesting (Tetrao tetrix, Crex crex, Circus cyaneus, Asio flammeus) or as a stopover and wintering ground during migration (Pandion haliaetus, Circus aeruginosus, Grus grus). Access to the nature reserve has been regulated to control the increasing pressure of tourism on the site (nordic ski, cycling) and hunting is prohibited in most of the site. Potential threats include atmospheric pollution caused by nearby industries, contamination of the underground water by the salt spread on the roads during winter, and drainage for forestry purposes. A management plan focusing on peatland restoration, maintenance of open fields, and conservation of the Black Grouse is in place; many environmental education activities are offered to the public. Ramsar site no. 1405.
Fagnes in winter (Photos: Parc Naturel Hautes-Fagnes-Eifel)
"Ruisseau Fagnard" (Fagnes brook)
Rossolis à feuilles rondes, Drosera rotundifolia (Photo: Marc Dufrêne)