In June 2019 around one hundred sheep grazed on the steep slope of the noise barrier between Brussels Airport and Steenokkerzeel town. It’s not only nice to watch, it’s really a lot better for biodiversity.
Until recently, the maintenance of the sound wall was limited to mowing four times a year, whereby the cuttings were left on site to compost. That resulted in a rather one-sided vegetation of rough grasses which were not very attractive to bees and butterflies.
In order to create a more interesting biotope for them, a change of strategy was necessary. From now on, we will only be mowing twice a year and we will be removing the cuttings to allow the soil to become less fertile. For the intervening periods, sheep are used to graze the grass so that other plants have a chance to develop.
The new approach is aimed at creating within 7 to 8 years a rich and high-quality grassland with a wide diversity of nectar and pollen sources. In this way, the noise barrier will become a hot spot from which healthy populations of bees and butterflies can colonise the surrounding areas and do their job there as pollinators.
We are currently studying whether other parts of the airport outside the security area could be used for sheep grazing.
To allow a sufficient number of sheep to be deployed, Brussels Airport Company has concluded a contract with sheep and goat farmer Brecht Laukens, who helped design the new maintenance plan.
Photo: Brecht Laukens and Stella the sheep