News - March 25, 2010

For the love of flora and sheep flocks

Martin Waanders wasn't cut out for a gardening job. He wanted to devote himself to plant life and so decided to do a part-time study on forest and nature management. During his internship, he researched into the effects of grazing sheep on plant life. He did that by noting down the vegetation which existed just before a flock of sheep made its way across a stretch of land along the Forum.

Vegetation is fascinating. It's at the root of all nature. The plants are the ones which determine what insects and birds are present; in fact, the entire landscape sprouts from its vegetation.'
Flower pots in Deventer
'Despite my passion, I chose to get a gardening education after lower forestry school. Jobs aren't that easy to come by in nature management. When I started working in Deventer, I was put in charge of a large number of planter boxes and also given various odd jobs. I got along well with my colleagues, but nature management continued to beckon. So I decided to study forest and nature management part-time. I resigned from my job just before my internship. Since then, a year has passed by, and I still feel good with what I'm doing. My first practical assignment was at the Goois Nature Reserve where I made an inventory of fauna passages. During that time, I met a shepherd with whom I could carry out my study.
Late recording
'Sheep grazing can lead to vegetation rejuvenation and increase in variety. However, very little is known about its exact effects. To find out more, I recorded the types of plants and their coverage in samples of test plots along the route taken by the sheep. It was a pity that this recording lasted only for a year. Therefore, I can't say much about vegetation shifts or whether rejuvenation really took place.
I did the recording all alone, and got used to that. It was October when I starting recording, which was very late in the season. And yet, I saw fascinating areas, from the Amsterdam Forest to the garden of Alterra on Wageningen Campus, where I found the most amazing plants. An example is the giant pimpernel, which I had not expected to see there. Well, it's been planted of course, so that doesn't really count.'
Own company
'I have also tended the flocks of sheep, but I wouldn't want to do that all my life. You have to be engaged with the sheep for 24 hours a day. That's not for me. My heart is with the flora. When I complete my studies, I'll start my own little company, and I've already received my first assignment.'