INPLANBEL: Invasive plants in Belgium: Patterns, processes and monitoring



Invasive exotic species (animals as well as plants, terrestrial as well as aquatic species) are characterised by extensive spreading capacities causing environmental damage when introduced out of their natural distribution area. The spread of invasive species is believed to be the second largest cause of current biodiversity loss worldwide. Numerous research programs have already been developed in countries extensively affected by this phenomenon like the United States of America, which are. Scientific concern now focuses on Europe, more recently affected by the invasions.

In Belgium, few data describe the characteristics and the distribution of exotic invasive species and many questions concerning processes, dynamics and consequences remain without answer. In this context, the project INPLANBEL is the first multidisciplinary approach dealing with invasive plants topic in Belgium.

Project description


The general aim is the establishment of a basic framework for the assessment of invasive species threats, for the development of management guidelines and for the definition of further research perspectives.


WP1. Definition of the studied species and the landscapes (all partners).
For some tasks, partners will work on a common set of target species. This target species list encloses subtropical C4 grasses increasing in maize field in western Belgium, species recognised as invaders of natural or semi-natural habitats (FALLOPIA JAPONICA, HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANUM, IMPATIENS GLANDULIFERA and PARVIFLORA, POLEMONIUM CAERULEUM, PRUNUS SEROTINA, SENECIO INAEQUIDENS, SOLIDAGO GIGANTEA, ROSA RUGOSA) and exotic species recorded in Belgium without being recognised as invasive. Landscape units chosen (approximately 1000 ha) and will represent of the different Belgian landscape types and will present as much target species as possible (WP3).

WP2. Production of a structured list of alien plant species and quantification of their success of invasion on the Belgian Territory (BBG).
A complete database of alien species introduced in Belgium since 1800 will be compiled including an evaluation of their invasive success. A more detailed analysis of an invasive success of these selected exotics will be made from historical biogeographic presence/absence records including the main components of the invasion process: establishment (initial number of viable populations arisen from the introduction), persistence throughout time, and rate of geographic spreading. The checklist of the Belgian alien species will be compared with data available for other countries in order to identify species potentially invasive in Belgium.

WP3. Monitoring of species and analysis of dispersal-spreading at the landscape level (FUSAGx, BBG).
A study of habitat selection and dispersal of target species at the scale of ecological landscape units will be realised. For each selected landscape unit, a GIS database will be computed, including the available information pertinent to assess the landscape structure. The location and the size of each target species population will be estimated as well as habitats characteristics in terms of vegetation parameters, types and degree of human perturbation and land use. The metapopulation dynamic will be followed over three years by monitoring extinctions and colonisations of populations. General dispersal mechanisms of each of the selected species will be evaluated: individual seed production, seed rain, seed bank. Success of habitat colonization will be explained in terms of land use, landscape structure and dispersal mechanisms of selected species to identify landscape components prone to invasion.

WP4. Explaining invasive success: trait analysis of species and communities (UIA).
A method will be developed in order to explain invasive success based on a combination of ecophysiological traits of invaders and invaded systems. Several exotic species with different invasive success will be considered. Plant traits related to invasiveness, community and ecosystem traits related to invisibility will be examined. These key-traits will be identified and subsequently used for the early detection of problematic species and threatened/vulnerable habitats. Furthermore, the response of invaders to competition with indigenous species will be assessed on the field by seedling monitoring and nutrients uptake estimations.

WP5. Impact of plant invasions on ecosystem properties (UIA, ULB).
Soil properties, net primary productivity and mineralomass will be compared between invaded and uninvaded patches for 5 sites of each target species. Changes in ecosystem processes will be related to species characteristics, and ecological conditions of the sites. Furthermore, the hypothesis supporting that the impacts of invaders on ecosystem properties promotes the establishment of subsequent invaders will be tested. The relative importance of site conditions and species traits (and the structure of correlations between them) in determining the observed changes in ecosystem attributes will be analysed by multiple regression methods, including path analysis.

Interaction between the different partners

The different teams sharing the same target species will work on the same sites. Results from the different approaches will be integrated in a global interpretation. In this context, coordination of the fieldwork will be necessary.

Link with international programmes

Collaboration between Belgium (FUSAGx) and France (Faculté des Sciences de Metz) is being considered. Relations already exist with Pr. G. DECOCQ (Université de Picardie Jules Vernes), coordinator of a project about the invasive spread of Prunus serotina Ehr. Some changes of information with Mrs S. BRUNEL (Conservatoire National Botanique de Porquerolles) working on a regional invasive plants program in southern France will also be considered.

Expected results and/or products

During the course of the project, particular attention will be devoted to producing tools that can be used for diffusion and sensibilisation. Iconographies, posters and publications will be achieved during the three years of INPLANBEL project. Furthermore, demonstration plots, guided visits and a discussion forum ( will be established. A monitoring network will also be organised across nature reserves with their collaboration.


Contact Information


Grégory Mahy
Faculty of agronomical sciences in Gembloux (FUSAGx)
Ecology Laboratory - Unité Sol-Ecologie-Territoire
2, Passage des Déportés
B-5030 Gembloux
Tel: +32 (0)81 62 22 45
Fax: +32 (0)81 61 45 44


Leo Vanhecke
Belgian National Botanical Garden (BBG)
Domein van Bouchout
B-1860 Meise
Tel: +32 (0)2 260 09 60
Fax: +32 (0)2 260 09 45

Pierre Meerts
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Plant Genetics and Ecology Unit
50, Avenue F.D. Roosevelt
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 650 91 67
Fax: +32 (0)2 650 91 70

Ivan Nijs
Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)
Department of Biology - Plant and Vegetation Ecology
Universiteitsplein 1
B-2610 Wilrijk
Tel: +32 (0)3 820 22 57
Fax: +32 (0)3 820 22 71

Users Committee

A. Wouters - Administration for Environmental, Nature, Land and Water Management (AMINAL)
J. Saintenoy-Simon - Amicale Européenne de Floristique (AEF)
W. Delvingt - Ardenne et Gaume
M. Gryseels - Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment (IBGE)
P. Gérard - Centre de Recherche de la Nature, des Forêts et du Bois - Direction de la Nature, de la Chasse et de la Pêche
S. Brunel - Conservatoire National Botanique de Porquerolles
P. De Wolf - Direction Générale Ressources naturelles et Environnement (DGRNE) - Ministère Région Wallonne
D. De Beer - Flo.wer
J. Van Goethem - National Focal Point to the Convention on Biological Diversity - Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
W. van Landuyt - Instituut voor Natuurbehoud
J. Bracqené - Natuurpunt
J. Huysecom - Réserves Naturelles Ornithologiques de Belgique (R.N.O.B.)
G. Decocq - Université Picardie Jules Verne - Faculté de pharmacie - Département de Botanique
H. Raeymaekers - Comité scientifique de la Conservation de la Nature et de la Protection de l’eau (CSCNPE)




Belgium {Geographical scope}
Agricultural {Habitat type}
Dry and Sub-humid Lands {Habitat type}
Forest {Habitat type}
Inland Waters {Habitat type}


Name Role Amount
Science for Sustainable Development unknown


Name Role Start End
Pieret, Nora member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Dassonvile, Nicolas member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Jacquemart, Anne-Laure member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Vanderhoeven, Sonia member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Mahy, Grégory promotor 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Vanhecke, Leo co-promotor 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Meerts, Pierre co-promotor 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Nijs, Ivan co-promotor 2003-01-01 2006-04-01


Name Role Start End
Biodiversity and Landscape Unit leader 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Flora of temperate regions member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Laboratory of Plant Ecology and Biogeochemistry member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01
Genetics, reproduction, populations member 2003-01-01 2006-04-01

created:2011-12-14 14:18:59 UTC, source:web

© 2012 by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform