Protecting the mountain in the face of tourist numbers


Calanques National Park, located in the south of France, which is under the threat of erosion, will limit the number of daily visitors to 400 people. The overcrowding of tourists, which is dangerous to biodiversity, affects the biological balance of seaside ecosystems, but not only that. In France, high mountain natural areas are also affected by accession from these peaks.

“Ten or fifteen years ago there were stagnant periods per year. Today there are no more in Chartreuse”. For Suzanne Foret, curator of the Hauts de Chartreuse national nature reserve since 2011, the evolution of participation in the park located in the French Alps is very real. Thanks to the eco-meters installed inside the reserve, the curator has observed significant increases in participation following the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The first peak was clear. We set out from certain crossing points. 1,500 to 3,000 passes in a day, says Suzanne Foret. He justifies this sawtooth involvement with various periods of decontinence, followed by this. “people needed great space and freedom, they longed to be outside”.

endangering biodiversity

Consequences of overcrowding in the reserve, usage conflicts between climbers and tourists were observed in 2020. “The walkers set up their tents in inappropriate places, they used the water basins of the alpagis dedicated to watering the animals to wet their beer, they left garbage, they walked with dogs when it was forbidden.. the cow even swallowed the t-shirt. It was lying around”lists Suzanne Foret, who notices her appearance. new folk are often very urban, “who doesn’t know the passwords of the mountains”.

Natural areas are limited, as the Chartreuse and Belledonne range is less than an hour from major cities such as Grenoble or Chambéry. prohibit certain tourism practices in their territory. This is the situation in the resort of Chamrousse, where bivouac is strictly prohibited since 2021 in the summer on Lake Achard, which is more than 1,900 meters above sea level.

Setting up tents is often dangerous to soil health, as it spoils the herd grass, as does campfires. “One in 2020 duplication of fireboxes. At high altitude, the soil renewal rate is very slow. Ten centimeters of soil was destroyed, it takes 15,000 to 40,000 years to rebuildSuzanne Foret emphasizes.

According to the curator, the biggest challenge today, when faced with peak tourist numbers, is “sharing space between users and nature, helping hikers understand that they are not alone”. According to him now “It’s complicated to find quiet places for wildlife becausemostBiodiversity needs areas of peace for its long-term conservation..

Reconciling biodiversity and human visitation

Lauren Mosdale has been responsible for the Sensitive Natural Areas (ENS) project since August 2021 in the Vercors massif, also in the French Alps. She focuses her work on two areas: the Falaises region and the Ramées plateau. Lauren Mosdale observed the arrival of an audience, as in climbers“. But as for the part of Vercors north of the Isère district, not overcrowded, Peaks that occur at different times.

In the natural areas she controls, certain periods are particularly sensitive to peaks than others: Lauren Mosdale cites April, when the flora goes through its vegetative cycle. Black grouse, a mountain bird species, also comes out of hibernation at this stage and enters the breeding season.

“Therefore, a peak in participation scare animals, stress relief dogscreates conflicts of use between the actors of an environment…”, Quoting Lauren Mosdale. Reconciling biodiversity conservation with human existence is therefore complex and emergence of new sports apps.

Vercors regular gives the example of the highline, a discipline that aims to move at height on a belt. In April, Lauren Mosdale had to stop athletes practicing this activity on a cliff near the summit of Moucherotte: tightrope walkers were exercising above reproductive age of the calico falcon, a protected species.

To overcome such inconveniences, Biodiv’s sports app, developed in part by the Bird Protection Association (LPO), Identify areas of high environmental sensitivity to inform athletes and direct them to places that do not endanger biodiversity.

Versatile results

In addition to quantitative effects, tourist visits can also produce “qualitative” effects. Lauren Mosdale explains that some locals have said they have seen their sense of peace heading in the wrong direction: “Since Covid-19 and the engagement peaks, some locals have decrease in welfare resourcesa kind of dispossession of their habitats, depending on their natural capital”.

Projects aimed at reconciling human existence with the conservation of biological diversity are channeled into participation summits. On the Molière and Sornin plateaus, at Vercors, the closure of the road and the arrangement of service excursions made it possible to counteract the abundance of tourists, for example, in summer. Lauren Mosdale talks about some solutions for managing the potential impacts of mountain peaks: “take free guided tours, create educational tools, organize excursions between climbers and botanists”.

But Suzanne Foret, the protector of the Hauts de Chartreuse nature reserve, adds that even if all users respect the environment, this raises the question of the number of people per protected area. wondering about the carrying capacity that an environment can support before it deteriorates. “Can nature absorb all this?”he finishes.

To preserve the biodiversity of natural areas, some parks in France are therefore adopting new strategies. Just like in the Calanques park in Marseille, Corsica, which will now drop from 2500 to 400 per day, plans to establish quotas on the Lavezzi islands to manage the tourist flow from this summer.