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Maasheggen Biosphere Reserve, The Netherlands

This agricultural river landscape in the Meuse valley, in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, has been shaped by continuous interaction between people and nature. The site is used for hay meadows and includes the oldest and largest network of natural hedges in the Netherlands. The landscape comprises a mosaic of small agricultural fields enclosed by hedges, sand dunes, forests, lakes, wet meadows and reed beds. The plan is to use the biosphere reserve as a laboratory for sustainable development and tourism.

Designation date: 2018

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Regional network: EuroMAB

Ecosystem-based network:



    Surface :
    6,700 ha

    • Core area(s) : 665 ha
    • Buffer zone(s) : 2,735 ha
    • Tansition zone(s): 3,300 ha

    Location: 51°39'50"N - 5°56'35"E


    Administrative authorities

    Municipality of Boxmeer
    Raadhuisplein 1; 5831 JX Boxmeer

    Tel: +31 485 585 911


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The proposed Biosphere Reserve represents a variety of valuable landscapes, formed by geological, geomorphological, cultural and historical processes. These landscapes, full of cultural heritage, natural areas and valuable habitats are of great importance for the biological and cultural diversity of the area (described under 3.1 conservation function). Besides the finely meshed network of hedges – characterised by high biodiversity and special species – valuable habitats such as Xeric sand calcareous grasslands, Lowland hay meadows and vegetation associations such as Quercetea robori-petraeae, KoelerioCorynephoretea and Nardetea are also present in the area.   




    Socio-economic characteristics

    There has always been a strong connection between man and nature in the area. Man used the natural advantages offered by the Meuse valley to provide a living. The fertile soils in the floodplains, fed by silt from the Meuse, were reclaimed and used as hay meadows and to graze cattle. The fields were enclosed by thorny hedges to keep the livestock in or out of fields. The hedges were laid and this living fence became an impenetrable barrier for man and livestock.

    Around 40,000 people live in the Biosphere Reserve, mostly in the transition zone. The area is characterized by its unique and sustainable small-scale landscape with hedges located in a dynamic contemporary society, but is yet not nationally-wide recognized as an example area for sustainable development. The Biosphere Reserve is in an international agrifood complex, and characterized by local collaboration between stakeholders and its ambition for integrated sustainable development of ecological, recreational, touristic, agricultural, and culture historical values.

    The Biosphere Reserve is mostly used for daily hiking, biking and yacht trips. Developed routes show the characteristic landscape of the area: the hedge landscape near the Meuse, the cultural and historical relics, the De Vilt geological monument, etc. There are different types of accommodations available in the Biosphere Reserve: hotels, bed & breakfast and family and group accommodation. 



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    Last updated: April 2019