How protected is French nature?

A French network of nature corridors has been described by the European Commission as a success story in the fight against biodiversity loss. META takes a closer look at how France is doing on nature protection.

At the height of summer, France’s celebrated ‘green and blue belt network‘ — a network of nature corridors and reserves — will be teeming with amazing biodiversity such as European roe deer, Mediterranean horseshoe bats or beech marten.

The ‘green and blue belt network’ was established in 2007 following the signature of a ‘Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy‘ under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The aim was to establish a joined-up ecological network — the ‘European Green Infrastructure’ network — that would ensure protection for biodiversity across Europe. In response, ‘Le Grenelle de l’environnement’ — an open forum that brings together government representatives, environmental NGOs, social partners and local authorities — set up the green and blue belt network in France. The green belt focuses on the terrestrial part and the blue one on marine habitats.

According to a recent report published by the European Commission about France’s progress on implementing environmental laws, the development of the green and blue belt network has been a success in the fight against nature loss:

“Where France leads in environmental implementation, it could share its innovative approaches more widely among other countries. Good examples include: […] The green and blue belt network (‘trame verte et bleue’) aiming to create a network of biodiversity corridors and reservoirs.”

Scientists have warned the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event is underway which they say is a threat to the survival of human civilisation. There have been various extinction crises before, the most notorious of course being the fifth mass extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs. The report, from researchers in the United States and Mexico, states that “the loss of biological diversity is one of the most severe human-caused global environmental problems”.

One example of how the green and blue belt network protects biodiversity is the establishment of ‘crapauducs’ (‘crapaud’ is French for toad and ‘duc’ comes from the Latin ducere: ‘to drive’). They allow toads to follow their natural rhythm and movement, safely crossing roads.

Example of a Crapauduc

But while these success stories are encouraging, environmental NGOs say there is still much work to be done in France if the country is to remain on track and help Europe meet its goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2020.

Just last month, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot presented his ‘Biodiversity Plan 2020’ — France’s plan for nature protection. Campaigners at the French NGO France Nature Environnement hope it will provide solutions to meeting the immense challenge of preserving natural heritage and halting the current extinction crisis.

In 2017 the EU also reported that the situation of endangered species in France was concerning.

Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity at the European Environmental Bureau, explains why we need a global network that connects protected areas.

“Both EU and individual countries really need to step up their game when it comes to the need for restoration of iconic ecosystems in order to halt biodiversity loss and maintain and increase those important services nature provides to us such as clean water, or regulating our climate.

What we need urgently are large-scale green and blue infrastructure initiatives that go beyond national boundaries and are part of the EU’s shared natural and cultural heritage and identity. These initiatives could serve as examples at national, regional and local levels and boost the importance of green and blue infrastructure in policy, planning and financing decisions.”