Aelmoeseneie forest

Aelmoeseneiebos vanuit de luchtThe Aelmoeseneie forest is a mixed deciduous forest of 28 ha, located about 15 km of the center of Ghent (Belgium). It is situated along the Geraardsbergsesteenweg, just outside the village of Gontrode. The Forest & Nature Lab lies next to the forest.

The Aelmoeseneie forest is one of the few public forests of the region. It is property of Ghent University and managed by the Forest & Nature Lab.

Detailed information (in Dutch) about the Aelmoeseneie forest can be found at


Picture history FerrarisIt is also one of the few remaining ‘old’ forest fragments in the region, i.e., it has been forested since before 1775 (maps of Ferraris). For centuries, the forest belonged to the abbey of St-Baafs (Ghent). During the French regime, the forest became property of the public center of social welfare of Ghent. The forest was cut almost completely during World War I (1914-1918), and has been replanted afterwards. In 1968, the Ministry of National Education bought the forest (19 ha) and adjacent grasslands (9 ha). From 1969 on, this area was put at the disposal of the Department of Forest and Water Management (Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences, Ghent University). The grasslands were afforested between 1968 and 1978.

University forest

Picture Aelmoeseneieforest snoeicursusAs a university forest, the Aelmoeseneie forest has a important educational and scientific role. Practical exercises for students, e.g., dendrometry, are organized in the forest, and the actual management of the forest, e.g., thinning, pruning, and planting, provides tangible examples of the theoretical forestry courses. The arboretum with c. 65 tree and shrub species is used for the dendrology courses.

Scientific zone

Picture stamafvloeiwaterScientific research has been performed throughout the Almoeseneie forest, but most research activities are concentrated in a marked scientific zone of 1.83 ha. This zone comprises two forest types: an oak-beech type (Quercus robur-Fagus sylvatica) on acid soil with a thick humus layer and a sparse herb layer, and an ash type (Fraxinus excelsior) characterized by fast nutrient cycling, a thin to absent humus layer and a diverse herb layer.

The scientific zone contains a Level I plot, a Level II plot, and a measuring tower. The Level I and Level II plots are part of the International Co-operative Program on the assessment and monitoring of air pollution effects on forests (ICP-plots, UN/ECE).

Picture lysimetersBesides the long-term monitoring of the ICP program, several short-term projects and MSc theses, of both ForNaLab and the Laboratory of Plant Ecology, have focused on the scientific zone. For example, (project 1) the spatial variability of throughfall water and (project 2) canopy exchange processes have been measured in detail.

An overview of all studies is available in Dutch. For an overview of the study locations in the entire forest and a list of the scientific publications of studies in the Aelmoeseneie forest, see (in Dutch, but with extended abstracts for each publication in English).Luchtfoto toren

Measuring tower

In the scientific zone, a 35 m high meteorological tower was set up in 1993. The tower allows the measurement of several meteorological parameters (precipitation, wind velocity, wind direction, net radiation, PAR, temperature, …) at five different height levels within and above the forest canopy (7, 14, 21, 28, 35 m). The measuring tower is located between an oak, beech and ash tree, at the border between the two forest types in the scientific zone.


The Aelmoeseneie forest is one of the few public forests of the region. It borders on the villages of Gontrode and Landskouter. A circular walking route and several footpaths are open to the public. You can make a virtual walk through the Aelmoeseneie forest and download the mapped walk via the website (in Dutch).


In 2006-2007, ForNaLab wrote a detailed management plan for the Aelmoeseneie forest and some small, nearby forest parcels. The management plan was drawn up in consultation with the other three forest owners involved and the neighbours of the forest.

A detailed forest management plan consists of a description of the juridical and actual condition of the forest, the management goals, and the management means that will be used to reach these goals. The forest management plan of the Aelmoeseneie forest gives an overview of the management measures that will be applied in the period 2007–2027 to reach the described goals: which measures will be used, where, and when.

You can download the management plan and the associated maps (PDF) (in Dutch).

Picture Aelmoeseneieforest exploitatie 2The Aelmoeseneie forest is managed in a sustainable and nature-oriented way, in order to develop a multifunctional forest. The economic, social, ecological, educational, and scientific forest functions are taken into account. Forest exploitation occurs via permanent skid trails to limit soil and vegetation damage. A spontaneous establishment of new, young trees is preferred. If such a natural forest regeneration fails to occur, young trees of certified and preferably local provenances will be planted. The management also pays attention to forest glades, rough vegetation, standing and lying dead wood.

The management of the Aelmoeseneie forest aims at developing an uneven-aged high forest with a well-developed tree layer, shrub layer, and regeneration of native deciduous species. Between the replanting of the forest in 1921 and the end of the 1990s, few trees were cut. Consequently, a large part of the Aelmoeseneie forest was even-aged high forest with a dominant tree layer and a poorly developed shrub layer. The forest edges are managed as coppice or borders of flowering shrub species to increase the forest’s biodiversity and for reasons of security. Tall trees next to public roads, railways, or houses do carry a risk as they might blow down.

FSC certificate

Picture Aelmoeseneieforest FSCBecause the Aelmoeseneie forest is managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations (for more details see our management plan), the forest was FSC certified on January 10 2009. FSC is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. For more information visit the FSC website.

Book Aelmoeseneie forest

Picture book AelmoeseneieforestThe Aelmoeseneie forest is part of the patrimony of Ghent University. The site is characterized by a long forest history and has been used for scientific research since the early 1970s. The scientific research of the period 1970–2010 was summarized in a book (in Dutch), aimed at the general public. ‘Bos onder de loep’ makes the results of the scientific research in the forest Aelmoeseneie easily accessible to all people interested in forests and the related environmental issues. Topical environmental questions regarding forests in Flanders are handled, such as ‘Are forests able to mitigate air pollution and climate change?’, ‘How much wood does a forest yield?’, ‘How many plant and animal species can be found in a forest?’

For more information you can contact dr. ir. Margot Vanhellemont (

The book 'Bos Onder De Loep' costs € 15 and can be ordered via Academia Press.