UCL has lecture halls, laboratories, offices but also spaces for living and nature. While present in urban areas, biodiversity flourishes in lusher environments such as Lauzelle Woods or Lake Louvain-la-Neuve. It’s an essential component for well-being at the university, overseen by the Estates and Facilities Management Department, Outdoor Areas (GPEX).
'Mission Zéro Phyto'
An end to phytosanitary products – plant protection products widely known as pesticides and herbicides. An obligation imposed by Wallonia to take effect in 2019 has been a reality in Louvain-la-Neuve since 2017. Weeding is performed using steam. Respect for nature runs deep: flowery meadows, late mowing, installing insect hotels and nesting boxes, caring for currant hedges and small orchards – everything is well thought out to encourage the development and diversity of flora and fauna. ‘We also responded favourably to the installation of beehives on the outskirts of the city,’ states GPEX.
A monitored lake
Between 1984, when it was created, and 2008, Lake Louvain-la-Neuve had never been drained. It finally was in 2009: a massive undertaking that aimed to increase biodiversity and improve water quality. Drainage involved rethinking the lake’s composition: to include more filtering vegetation and retain only indigenous fish. More than 100 species found an ideal habitat in this environment, including rare plants such as Ranunculus sceleratus (celery-leaved or cursed buttercup). In 2014-15, a partial drainage was a qualified success and allowed its actors to learn more about the process.
Produce wood, welcome the public, promote biodiversity, serve education and research – these are the basics of forest management for Lauzelle Woods. In a preserved area, respect for biodiversity and the protection of various biotopes are a priority. Trees are felled in accordance with a forest management plan that guarantees the continuity of species. Sampling is controlled so that the number of trees logged is lower than the number of new trees that are planted. A recognised Natura 2000 area, the woods are managed so meticulously that its various plants and animals live in symbiosis. For example, a herd of 35 to 50 deer take care of themselves perfectly well. Trees regenerate naturally and under-represented species receive special protection. Wet areas within the woods make biodiversity abundant and the bird population is very diverse. Even though it’s in an urban setting, the Lauzelle Woods retains its wild nature. It’s open to the public and to students, including those of the agronomy faculties who can come to apply what they have learned. Several years ago an arboretum was created at the edge of the woods where the Arthur Hardy and Lauzelle paths intersect.
♦ Did you know ? ♦
Trout reproduce in the crystal-clear waters of the Lauzelle Woods, a very rare occurrence observed by Jean-Claude Mangeot, who has been the woods’ impassioned forest ranger for 40 years.
Nature effectively speaks for itself…The woods have become so lush that they have attracted a family of beavers, bluethroats and great egrets.
Three questions for Tatiana de Radzitzky, manager of outdoor areas for Woluwe’s Estates and Facilities Technical Management Department
What is your philosophy for managing nature on the Woluwe campus?
Respecting nature to the utmost and changing the perception of what it means to be ‘urban’. I want everyone to take a fresh look at plants on campus, to accept that paths aren’t perfectly weeded, that vegetation is left to grow until late in the season, that dead trees remain undisturbed in order to favour biodiversity. It’s time for so-called ‘weeds’ to be appreciated anew. Woluwe has been free of herbicides and pesticides for several years. We use mechanical alternatives, such as burners, to remove most of the unwanted vegetation.
You also limit the use of hedge trimmers?
A hedge trimmer gives plants a superficial appearance. We use it only for a few shrubs. Others are pruned slightly but regularly. This allows the plants to flower and maintain a more natural appearance. I always choose indigenous plants, as authentic as possible. They’re more resilient. I also pay attention to the aesthetic aspect of the campus. Wild species do well here, such as certain orchids. As for fauna, foxes have their dens near university buildings.
Do you have any new projects for the campus?
We want to plant fruit trees and bushes such as currants and plums. The idea is for the campus to be productive, that people serve themselves…including vegetables too, why not? The campus will develop with Clinique 2025 but we want to continue to manage green spaces sustainably, including the Martin V Garden.