The yearly report by the Flemish Forest and Nature Research Institute (Instituut voor Natuur-en-Bosonderzoek) was published on Friday. It says there is more and more evidence of the impact of climate change on nature in Flanders. Changes in the weather and ecosystem are now very visible.
There has been a change in when some trees, including birch, produce pollen. Beeches and oaks are also starting to produce leaves earlier and earlier in the year, a consequence of milder winter months. The long term impact these trends might have is not yet known.
The Institute has also noticed changes in the ecosystem. Species from the South and South-East are coming further and further North. “A good example is certain species of dragonfly. They used to just pass through Flanders, but now they are living there”, the report says.
As per the European policy regarding exotic species, there is now an international list of problematic species. At least 89 non-indigenous species on this list have been seen in Flanders. 41 of them are considered very invasive. Several species of mammal, including the marten, otter, wild cat and badger, have returned to Flanders. However their populations are still very fragile. On the other hand, the numbers of polecats and dormice are inexplicably declining, along with over half of the bat species.
Out of the 22 indigenous amphibian and reptile species, 10 are considered “under threat”, two of them “seriously under threat”. This is mainly because of a deterioration in the quality of reproduction waters.