International students at work

Avans University of Applied Science students work on monitoring and management strategies for ‘Loonse en Drunense Duinen'. This unique area is threatened by vegetation spreading.

Four students from Avans University of Applied Sciences are working with Atlas of Natural Capital, Noord-Brabant Province, and Natuurmonumenten to preserve the future of the ‘Loonse en Drunense Duinen' national park. The national park is found in Noord-Brabant, between the cities of Tilburg and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and is about 35 square kilometres. This park is unique to the Netherlands and Northern Europe, as it contains drifting sands containing unique species native to sand dunes. However, this extraordinary park has recently been under threat by vegetation spreading at an increasing rate, and therefore suffocating the indigenous sand dunes.

After meeting with their respective clients on Friday 27th of October, the team began their work in the park. They first took aerial photographs using a drone. Once enough photos are taken over the course of a few weeks, they will stitch them together and produce a map of the area under study, using GIS. The sampled area will be around 570 hectares. This map will be compared to maps of a previous year to see changes in vegetation and to see the rate of succession. This information can also be used to determine what areas will be vulnerable to the further succession of plants.

In addition to the mapping, the team will also be taking samples of the soil and groundwater. The samples are planned to be collected from four different locations that represent the surrounding environment. These locations also include the primary stages of succession within the park: sandy soil, heathland, and forest.

It is believed that the nitrogen pollution from a nearby highway is causing a fertilisation effect on the local vegetation. The samples will test for a variety of variables, such as pH, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorous, and Ammonium. These variables will show possible causes and favourable growing conditions for vegetation. To test for these variables, experiments will be conducted in an Avans University lab.

With the combined data from the aerial photographs and soils samples, a comprehensive management strategy for the park can be developed. This study will last for 13 weeks and ends at the beginning of January 2018. The study can be followed on the blog  ‘Dutch Dying Desert'.

Students names shown left to right: Emese Orosz, Phillip Worster, Magdalena Górska, Lars van Kleef