The rules of the Sonian Forest

Why are dogs off their leash a threat to the animals in the forest? Why is leaving the paths detrimental to the forest? Why should you not feed waterfowl? Introducing the XII Works of the Sonian Forest.

I. Let flowers bloom and mushrooms grow.

No matter how small, if you pluck a flower or mushroom, you disturb the natural balance of the forest. Bees look for nectar in the flowers and take care of pollination. Mushrooms degrade dead wood and offer important nutrients to other plant species. And for forest animals such as squirrels, mice and beetles, mushrooms are a nutritious snack.

II. The animals also enjoy the peace and quiet, don’t make too much noise.

Humans aren’t the only ones who appreciate the peace and quiet in the forest. For many animals, some peace is necessary to their survival. Breeding and migratory birds need all their energy to raise their chicks or start the hard journey to Africa.

III. Always keep your dog on a leash.

Every year, foresters in the Sonian Forest find roe deer that have been killed by dogs off their leash. If we want the forest to remain a safe haven for roe deer, then owners need to keep their furry friends on a leash at all times. Other visitors will appreciate this as well. Some people are afraid of dogs. They too have the right to a peaceful walk in nature.

IV. Admire the majestic trees of the Sonian Forest, do not carve into their trunks.

Carving into trees amounts to hurting them. The wound is a portal for fungi and insects that may weaken the tree.

V. Help keep the forest clean, take your litter home.

Litter in the forest ruins the enchanting landscape and annoys other visitors. Moreover, litter is bad for humans, animals and nature: It can pollute the soil, or animals might eat it or get caught in it.

VI. Stay on the path, don’t trample the soil.

If you walk on the soil too often, it gets compressed and hardens. Water and air cannot get to the roots of plants and trees anymore. The roots start rotting and the tree dies. If you leave the path, you also damage vulnerable plant species and disturb forest inhabitants.

VII. Keep things safe and don’t light a fire, as a fire can spread quickly.

In dry periods, one cigarette butt is enough to set the forest on fire in minutes. As such, lighting a fire is strictly forbidden in the forest.

VIII. Spot waterfowl but do not feed them.

Wild animals can find enough food in nature. Feeding waterfowl may seem like a good deed, but bread does not contain the nutrients they need. Moreover, the bread starts rotting in the water and the pond becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. These bacteria cause serious diseases such as botulism, with paralysis or even death as a result.

IX. Choose the right path for your activity: walking, cycling, horse-riding…

In the Sonian Forest, there are suitable paths for everyone. Every visitor can practice their sport in all safety and comfort. For the safety of other visitors, it is important that horse riders, cyclists and hikers stay on their own path. Barking dogs on a horse track or a pregnant woman with a stroller on a steep mountain bike track are examples of dangerous combinations.

X. Leave the dead wood where it is. Animals and plants like to live in it.

Dead and rotting wood boosts the biodiversity in the forest. It is a source of nutrients for many micro-organisms and invertebrates, and forms an important part of the ecosystem in the forest. Animals such as newts, bats and pine marten often use lying or standing dead trees as a hiding place.

XI. Keep exotic animals and plants far from the Sonian Forest.

The fight against exotic plants such as black cherry and Japanese knotweed in our forests costs millions of euros. They spread like wildfire and displace local plants. Right now, the situation is still under control, but in other forests in the country, these invasive plants have gained the upper hand.

XII. Enjoy the forest, but also be respectful of the other visitors.

This rule is a good summary of all the other rules. By showing respect for nature and other visitors, every can fully enjoy the forest, now and in generations to come.