This Biosphere reserve, located in the south of the Massif Central, offers majestic contrasting landscapes – from the limestone plateaux of the Causses, to the granite formations of Mont Aigoual and Mont Lozère, to the schist slopes of the Cévennes. These formations originate from geological, topographical and climatic diversity, but also from human activities, including agriculture and grazing, which have been practised in the area for centuries.
Biodiversity in this Biosphere reserve is rich but fragile, and is dependent on diverse low-intensity human activities. These activities help to maintain and even restore open spaces, as well as contributing to the preservation of rare and protected plant and animal species.
It was this recognition of the role of human activities that led to its designation as a Biosphere reserve in 1985.
Administrative authority: Cévennes National Park.
The National Park and Biosphere Reserve occupy the same area and share the same management, taking the complementary objectives of both networks into account.
The Park’s administrative board makes decisions on both internal policy directions (budget, organization, etc.), and external ones relating to the site (allocation of financial and technical assistance, partnership opportunities, and drafting of strategic and planning documents).
In particular, it supervises preparation of the Park’s charter, giving approval for key stages and adopting the draft. To do this, the board relies on the work of its thematic committees, elected officials, the Scientific Council and National Park teams.
The Charter, which is currently being drafted, will be the official document outlining joint management of the National Park and Biosphere Reserve.
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TerritoryImprimercarte du territoire
The history of the Cévennes’s forests and pastures has meant an exceptionally rich natural heritage. It features around 200 habitat types, is home to over 2,400 animal species, and accounts for 40% of France’s plant diversity. Currently, several habitats – scrub, wasteland, and heathland – are steadily becoming overgrown, at a rate of around 1% per year.
Agricultural and grazing activities, forestry, handicrafts and tourism are all essential to the site. They have shaped the Cévennes landscape into what it is today, and are the basis for economic development. Hunting and fishing are also widespread.
The site’s outstanding architectural heritage is characterized by three types of rocks: granite, slate and limestone, which were used for both the houses themselves and their petit bâtis – small structures built next to the houses, typical of southern Lozère and the Gard part of the Cévennes.
More than 150 sites and monuments are heritage listed, either on a national or regional level.
In addition, 3,000 items of cultural heritage have been identified, a few hundred of which are considered of great interest. The limestone plateaux are of more archaeological interest than elsewhere on the site, particularly with regard to prehistory.
Supporting agropastoral activities
Agropastoral activities (agriculture and grazing) help maintain a dynamic agricultural sector without sacrificing the ecological value of the land, by developing extensive grazing and by fighting against scrub encroachment. Cévennes National Park – Biosphere Reserve supports and encourages these activities.
On Natura 2000 sites, it is working with volunteer farmers to implement agri-environmental measures in the area. These agreements apply to species and habitats that have been identified as priorities, and aim to prevent overgrowth and scrub encroachment.
For many years now, rural land managers in the Causses have been teaming up with research organizations, as on the Fichade estate (at Cros Garnon), to optimize grazing strategies, aiming to find a balance between production and conservation objectives in these areas.
The French government, regional authorities and Europe co-finance programmes that help land owners with conservation management work such as felling pine trees.
In encouragement of the practice of transhumance, there are programmes to build and restore pastoral huts, add features such as fences and water access points, restore tracks and troughs, and clear vegetation.
Raising public awareness thanks to the Nature Festival
For the last twenty years or so, the Park’s annual Nature Festival has offered walks and varied activities such as exhibitions, workshops, shows, etc., all related to natural and cultural heritage. Organized throughout the year, they are designed for adults and children, locals and holidaymakers alike. The programme is rich and diverse.
- For further information : Festival nature
Teaching children to recognize the effects of climate change
As part of the partnership between the National Park and the French national education system, schools involved in the Biosphere reserve’s volunteer programme work together to collect data for the Seasons observatory. Over 300 students from five schools and one college participate in the Phénoclim science programme, supervised by their teachers and nine park rangers.
Open to all age groups, with a twofold scientific and educational objective, the Phénoclim programme monitors changes in the vegetation due to climate change. It is conducted by the Alpine Ecosystems Research Centre (CREA), and is based on phenological observations of plants in mountain areas. Phénoclim began in the Alps in autumn 2004, and was implemented in the Massif Central in 2008 at the initiative of Cévennes National Park.
Phenology is the study of the annual cycle of the stages of growth and development of living things (flowering, shedding of leaves, arrival of migratory birds, etc.). Phenological events are climatic markers but they are also key elements in the adaptation of living things to climatic fluctuations.
- For further information : Phenoclim
Preserving old fruit varieties
The Biosphere reserve has a rich fruit heritage. Preservation of this heritage is the subject of numerous local initiatives. ‘Old’ fruit varieties can be selected according to many different criteria: seasonality (early or late), maximum storage time, mild or sharp taste, climate adaptation which is sometimes very localized, whether they are to be used fresh or cooked...
The Park is currently involved in the development of a global plan to build a network of conservation orchards for local fruit varieties.
This project will be in partnership with the pomology centre in Ales, which is well-known throughout France for its tree-growing expertise. It will also involve local stakeholders, orchard owners and farmers. Old fruit varieties will be identified and listed by valley or homogeneous area, and a cartographic database of this heritage will be created. In addition, a network of fruit biodiversity conservationists will be developed, and programmes of recovery, exchanges, training, and environmental education will be defined.