On Thursday 21 October, Campus Drie Eiken won the award for Biodiverse Business Park 2021. The award is a welcome acknowledgement of the years of sustained efforts to make the campus grow and flourish.
Our university has always been committed to biodiversity on our campuses. After signing up for the Green Deal for Businesses and Biodiversity in 2018, we stepped up a notch. This Green Deal is an initiative from the Flemish government aimed to encourage companies and organisations to increase biodiversity on their sites. Within our university, efforts are focused primarily on the 55 hectares of Campus Drie Eiken, where ponds, woods and meadows are an ideal breeding ground for well-known indigenous plants and animals, as well as more rare species.
This autumn, the Green Deal for Businesses and Biodiversity is coming to an end, which was accompanied by a closing event on Thursday 21 October in the presence of Zuhal Demir, Minister of Environment and Spatial Development. It was an exciting moment for our university, because we were competing for the Biodiverse Business Park 2021 Award. We can now call the prize ours: the cherry on the cake after years of adopting green policies and successful ecological measures at Campus Drie Eiken.
Nature has free rein
‘The campus was laid out in the 1970s and at the time required labour-intensive maintenance, with a lot of mowing and pruning’, says environmental coordinator Marleen Clerinx. ‘Today we are evolving towards labour-extensive maintenance. The area looks wilder and somewhat unkempt, but it is so much better for the plants and animals.’
Through a whole series of large and small interventions, our university is creating more space for nature and biodiversity. Three times a year, sheep come to graze in hard-to-reach places (importing seeds from elsewhere with their legs); the snowberry bushes in the car parks were replaced with herb mixtures; overgrown banks were cleared; old water connections were restored; and, next to the Kleine Struisbeek, ramparts made of branches were erected as nesting and refuge areas for birds and small mammals. A former construction site was transformed into a beautiful flower meadow and a local beekeeper installed hives on the campus.
Raising awareness among staff and students
Karin Van Emelen, head of the Greenery, observes daily how this policy literally bears fruit. ‘We clearly see more bees, butterflies and more insect species. And the toads and frogs are also very present here.’ Marleen also points out another important impact. ‘There are about 5,000 members of staff and 22,000 students at our university. If we also achieve an awareness-raising effect with our efforts, that is a nice bonus.’
Meanwhile, staff, students and visitors from outside can enjoy all the beauty and diversity that Campus Drie Eiken has to offer. Students are grateful to use of the flora and fauna for their research projects, many colleagues enjoy the view of the flower meadow, and the picnic benches and pétanque court invite them to spend their lunch break surrounded by nature. And thanks to the bicycle connection and the running track, many sporty people and cyclists from the region also find their way to Campus Drie Eiken.