By the approval of the European Bird Directive (79/409/EEC) in 1979 and the Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC) in 1992, nature protection has become an important part of European law with direct consequences for land use, industrial development and agriculture. If a member state reclaims an area that is protected by these directives, it has to take compensational measures. When such an area includes saline grasslands that require very specific abiotic conditions, a place with similar conditions must be available to re-establish those grasslands at another location in a sustainable way. This will limit the number and extent of possible sites for compensation.
In the conflict between economy and ecology in the Schelde polders, Flanders has chosen to expand the port of Antwerp in the polders at the left Schelde bank and destroy a protected saline grassland site. As a consequence, it has to compensate for this loss. Therefore, we made a detailed study of the hydrology, geology and soil conditions of the endangered saline grassland site. The same was done in four possible compensation sites, all situated in nearby polders. We found that the presence of upwelling groundwater flowing through a saline peat layer is necessary for the occurrence of saline grasslands. Only in one of the four possible compensation sites, called Muggenhoek, we found such conditions. So, we indicate this place as a possible site for the re-creation of saline grasslands and give some recommendations for their development.
Nomenclature: van der Meijden (1996)