In her na­ture

French Property News - - Expert Advice - shna-au­­faune.bour­gone-na­

Linda Viandier speaks to Lisa Leprêtre who works for the So­ciété d’his­toire Na­turelle d’au­tun (SHNA) in the Mor­van re­gional park.

What is the SHNA? The or­gan­i­sa­tion works to pre­serve and pro­tect ar­eas that are rich in bio­di­ver­sity, and has been study­ing the en­vi­ron­ment in Bur­gundy for the past 130 years. Réseaux Mares de Bour­gogne fo­cuses on rais­ing aware­ness and the preser­va­tion of ponds. It was cre­ated in 2008 as stud­ies car­ried out by the SHNA showed that more than 20% of mares in Bur­gundy had dis­ap­peared over 20 years.

What does your job in­volve? One area of my work is to pre­serve the ex­ist­ing hedgerows di­vid­ing farm­land where a large num­ber of ponds ex­ist due to the ex­ten­sive rear­ing of live­stock in these ar­eas.

I meet with farmers and peo­ple with ponds on their land to make them aware of the bio­di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing the pres­ence of pro­tected species, and give them ad­vice on at­tract­ing wildlife. I also di­ag­nose the con­di­tion of ponds with the aim of restor­ing them and make them wel­com­ing once again.

In ad­di­tion I cre­ate ‘ refuge mares’, whereby the own­ers agree not to fill them in or pol­lute them, and not to in­tro­duce fish that have a neg­a­tive im­pact on in­sects and am­phib­ians.

Fi­nally, I work in the same man­ner to pro­tect some very dif­fer­ent lit­tle crea­tures: I set up refuges for bats, again with the co-op­er­a­tion of landown­ers, who un­der­take to pro­vide shel­ter and a favourable en­vi­ron­ment for these small fly­ing mam­mals. Of the 34 species of bat in France, of which many are rel­a­tively un­known and un­der threat of ex­tinc­tion, 24 are found in Bur­gundy!

Why is it im­por­tant to pro­tect the ponds? Ponds are mainly man­made en­vi­ron­ments, but they are used by, and in many cases, es­sen­tial to, a great num­ber of species of plants and an­i­mals in­clud­ing in­sects, am­phib­ians, rep­tiles, birds and mam­mals. In pro­por­tion to their size, they are a hotspot of bio­di­ver­sity.

They also pro­vide a much needed al­ter­na­tive to nat­u­ral wet ar­eas, which have dis­ap­peared due to ur­ban­i­sa­tion and agri­cul­ture. Once used for nu­mer­ous daily tasks, they are the re­minders of our ru­ral her­itage. In ad­di­tion, these small reser­voirs are ver­i­ta­ble sponges, play­ing an es­sen­tial role in the fil­tra­tion of wa­ter.

De­spite all that, due to the mod­erni­sa­tion of wa­ter sup­plies and in­creas­ingly in­ten­sive farm­ing, many ponds are be­ing filled in or aban­doned. With­out main­te­nance they will fill in nat­u­rally, so it is es­sen­tial to in­form peo­ple of their im­por­tance in or­der to change at­ti­tudes and main­tain good prac­tices.

How do you per­suade peo­ple to get in­volved?

I try to make them see the rich­ness and im­por­tance of these en­vi­ron­ments. I help them iden­tify their own ponds on a map of the re­gion and show them photos of the species that take refuge in the ponds. I en­cour­age them to speak of their mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences; a lot of peo­ple rem­i­nisce about catch­ing frogs when they were young!

When­ever pos­si­ble, I take them to ob­serve the pond at night­fall as most am­phib­ians are noc­tur­nal and hide dur­ing the day. In spring, you can take a pow­er­ful torch to see deep into the wa­ter and ap­pre­ci­ate all the life crawl­ing on the bot­tom. The most im­pres­sive is ob­serv­ing the newts, kind of small aquatic sala­man­ders.

How can Brits with homes in France spread the word? The Mor­van is a pop­u­lar re­gion with for­eign­ers, es­pe­cially the Dutch and Bri­tish. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, those who set­tle in these ru­ral ar­eas are gen­er­ally sen­si­tive to the preser­va­tion of the coun­try­side and the en­vi­ron­ment. An ef­fi­cient way to spread in­for­ma­tion is by word of mouth, speak­ing about your own ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­plain­ing what is at stake. This way, cur­rent or fu­ture own­ers will be aware of their pond’s im­por­tance and un­der­stand what main­te­nance to carry out.

Some vil­lages hold cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties in spring such as Fréquence Gre­nouille, which al­lows peo­ple to see pond-dwelling crea­tures such as am­phib­ians and rep­tiles at first hand in their nat­u­ral habi­tats; it’s the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to learn more.

With­out these ponds, many species would be threat­ened

Ponds come in all shapes and sizes but they’re all im­por­tant for the en­vi­ron­ment

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