Column: Attrition

In January, WUR felled 14 trees to create a cycle path to the new education building Aurora.

Another little bit of the Dassenbosje – the three-hectare wood in the south-west corner of the campus – has been nibbled away. In January, WUR felled 14 trees to create a cycle path to the new education building Aurora. Felling 14 trees is no big deal in itself, of course, but it’s part of a destructive pattern. A part of the Dassenbosje was already felled in 2014 for the sake of the bus lane, and more and more bits of the old hedgerow lining the Bornsesteeg have also disappeared over the years.

It would be very sad if we only tolerate nature in places that we happen to have left over

Worse still, WUR has been arguing for years in favour of a ring road that would cut through the Dassenbosje. That plan has been taken off the drawing board, but now Idealis wants to build student housing opposite Campus Plaza, exactly where that hedgerow runs. This is just how landscape elements disappear in rural areas: little bits are sacrificed time and again, until there is nothing left.

Some people say the Dassenbosje is over 300 years old. Aerial photos from World War II show that these woods used to be a source of firewood, and you can still see signs of that on some of the older trees. You can also see the traces of a system of ditches that was used historically to make forestry possible in swampy areas. The hedgerow along the Bornsesteeg is another remnant of an older forest system. This kind of history is valuable, and especially on a campus where most of the buildings date back no further than 2000. It would be a poor show if we couldn’t conserve such features.

Of course, a lot of new nature has been created on the campus in recent years. Ponds have been dug, bluegrass vegetation with orchids has been planted, and a bat cellar has even been built. For every tree that’s been felled several new trees have been planted. All this is laudable. But it does not entirely compensate for landscape elements that have been there since before the war, neither in terms of nature value nor of cultural history. It would be very sad if we only tolerate nature that we ourselves have planned, in places that we happen to have left over. So let’s make a point of looking after the nature which is already there better. Even in places where that nature is not particularly convenient for us.

Vincent Oostvogels (25) is in the first year of a PhD on biodiversity recovery in dairy farming. His dream is to be able to keep a few cows of his own one day.

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