We are pleased to announce the diffusion of the LIFE IN QUARRIES video presentation recorded in the participating quarries.
Every year in Belgium, over 70 million tonnes of rock are extracted from the bowels of the Earth. This is essential work, which inevitably transforms the landscape.
The quarry constantly disturbs the earth, lays the rocks bare and creates new, so-called, pioneer environments. This group of extreme conditions could, a priori, appear hostile to life. But the bottom of the pit reveals some astonishing surprises.
MARIE VANSCHEPDAEL – Natagora project manager – “Small ponds which will be dug out again regularly and in which there is still little or very little vegetation; this pioneer side is very interesting, there are many rare plants and animals that are only, or almost only, found in active quarries”.
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
The natterjack toad is mainly a land animal, but its survival depends on temporary ponds whose shallow depths and regular drying out protect it from fish which feed on its spawn and tadpoles. They are both fragile and incredibly resistant, and can survive in a simple rut created by a passing machine.
In the more open areas, the little ringed plover has chosen to settle. On pioneer grasslands created through excavation operations, all it needs is a hole in which to lay its eggs.
Scree is constantly being formed in quarries. An ideal shelter for a variety of reptiles such as the smooth snake.
Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca)
Non-poisonous, this snake mainly eats another quarry inhabitant, the common wall lizard.
Common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis)
Scree is also witness to the appearance of pioneer plants which have become rare wildlife.
JEAN-PIERRE SCOHY – General Inspector, Departement Nature et Foret – Région Wallonne. “During the quarry’s formation, we see habitats appear that attract a whole series of species which weren’t there before the quarry was in place and as long as we can take care of them, we will be able to keep them on-site, and even attract more”.
The Life in Quarries project was born from this observation and aims at implementing actions to encourage biodiversity within active quarries.
BENOIT LUSSIS – environmental advisor, Fediex – “The key issue of the Life project is to conciliate actions which encourage biodiversity in a way that doesn’t hinder the quarry activities and which can be carried out coherently with these operations”.
Active quarries have many conditions available to them to facilitate development of biodiversity. Excavation products as well as the availability of machines allow for a controlled development of scree which offers shelter to reptiles and amphibians.
SEBASTIEN HOUTRELLE – Environmental Manager, Holcim – “It’s particularly about planning and organisation. We really try to synchronise our daily activities with actions that are really targeted at the Life project”.
In run-off zones, or areas where water accumulates, quarrymen can dig small holes of different sizes which, once filled, will form ponds favourable to amphibians.
Pioneer ponds Pioneer grasslands
The surrounding scree will then be colonised by a variety of pioneer species, which completes this mini ecosystem.
Although the project’s originality and beauty lie in the establishment at the very heart of an active quarry, a few measures are needed to protect species from the excavation operations.
JULIEN TAYMANS – Natagora Conservation project manager – “Good practices will be to delineate areas with barriers, particularly by positioning large blocks, and also to alert quarry staff to avoid regular circulation in those areas”.
Stone barriers Delineate refuge areas
The refuge areas created in this way, can combine different types of pioneer habitats to increase the number of targeted species.
As long as areas will remain inactive for some years to come, many of them are suitable for development.
But how can the very long-term continuity of these habitats that have been created be ensured? The Life project is based on an innovative concept of dynamic management of biodiversity.
When a part of the quarry containing a habitat is going to be excavated, a new refuge area will be created beforehand, in a location that is temporarily or definitively inactive. In winter, in the absence of populations, grasslands and their seeds will be transferred here.
The permanent availability of habitats is ensured in this way, without impeding quarry operations.
Quarries have also become replacement habitats for a good number of rare birds. Perched on the cliff tops, the Eurasian eagle-owl seems to be watching over operations.
European eagle-owl (Bubo bubo)
Around the former flooded pits, an abundance of fish attract birds such as the common gull.
Common gull (Larus canus)
In the loose cliffs of the stockpiles, the sand martin has taken refuge, a species which, without the active quarries, would have no doubt disappeared from Wallonia.
Sand martin (Riparia riparia)
All this is evidence that through limited investments, quarries can play a decisive role in the conservation of endangered species.
The Life project unites scientists and quarrymen in a common goal which aims to focus on new approaches for the development of biodiversity. Initial results, beneficial to all, illustrate this as an opportunity for a real partnership between man and nature.