The European Network Natura 2000 for nature protected areas was established under the Habitats directive (1992). The network aims to protect Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The network includes nature reserves and parks, but also privately owned land that should be sustainably managed. The network includes over 1000 protected species and more than 200 habitat types, including marine species and habitats. Flanders has 62 Natura 2000 sites.
The "Hoge Kempen" National Park was founded in 2006 and is situated in the East of Limburg, Flanders, Belgium. The Park is about 5600 ha (about 14.000 acres). and stretches across the municipalities Dilsen-Stokkem, Maasmechelen, Zutendaal, Lanaken, Genk and As. Within the National Park, the Mechelse Heide, is a well-known natura 2000 site. Currently the National Park is the only recognized TEEB region within Belgium.
In 2010 Hasselt University and RLKM decided to formalize the concern both institutions share for the sustainability of this region. Together with many volunteers, park rangers and students, UHasselt now performes, promotes and supports biodiversity-related - in a widest sense - research within the region. This is even more emphasized by establishing a research field centre in the periphery of Connecterra, the main gate to the national park.
The offices, seminar room and research infrastructure are located on the Terhills location within Connecterra, the main gate of the only Belgian National Park Hoge Kempen (NPHK).