What is a nature reserve? Which animals to observe?

Beyond a geographical area, the nature reserve is a administrative status ensuring the safeguard of its geological and biological heritage. In France and around the world, an overview of these protected areas and the animals that inhabit them.

What is a nature reserve?

The status of “nature reserve” constitutes a legal tool aiming to protect a territory whose natural environment is of remarkable interest for:

  • Its heritage geological which includes all objects and sites symbolizing the memory of the Earth (deposits, rocks, minerals, mines, fossils, on land or at sea);
  • Its heritage biological (fauna, flora, forest, water: lake, pond…).

The legal framework aims to protect this area from any intervention likely to degrade it or harm the species that inhabit it (pollution, fire, exploitation, hunting, etc.)

Who manages nature reserves in France?

In France – depending on conservation issues, geographic location and local contexts – we distinguish three types of administrative status:

  • Nature reserves national (RNN);
  • The nature reserves of the local authority of Corsica (RNC);
  • Nature reserves regional (RNR).

Their management is entrusted to associations for the protection of nature (conservatories of natural spaces), to public establishments (national parks, National Forestry Office, etc.) or to local communities (municipalities, groups of municipalities, mixed unions, etc. .). Nature reserves are created by the State and placed under its responsibility through its local representative (Prefect).

How many nature reserves are there in France?

Today, the French network of nature reserves counts 351 classified sites whose :

  • 166 national nature reserves;
  • 178 regional nature reserves;
  • 7 Corsican nature reserves.

The greater nature reserves in France are:

  • The French Southern Territories nature reserve (67.2 million hectares);
  • The Nouragues nature reserve in Guyana (100,000 hectares);
  • Les Bouches de Bonifacio (79,460 hectares);
  • The highlands of Vercors (17,000 hectares);
  • The Camargue (13,000 hectares);
  • The high chain of Jura (10,900 hectares).

Nature reserves: objectives set by law

Beyond their differences in administrative status, nature reserves share conservation objectives listed by law:

  • The preservation of endangered animal or plant species and habitats;
  • The reconstitution animal or plant populations or their habitats;
  • The preservation of remarkable environments (biological or geological);
  • The preservation or constitution of stages on the main roads of migration wildlife;
  • The realization ofstudies scientific or technical essential to the development of human knowledge;
  • The preservation of sites of particular interest for the study of life and early human activities.

What are the missions of nature reserves?

In mainland France or overseas, all the actions of nature reserves revolve around four missions main:

Protect. Each site benefits from a regulation aimed at preserving the natural environments as well as the animal and plant species which characterize it. The regulations differ from one nature reserve to another depending on its challenges and its conservation objectives;

Know. Nature reserves represent laboratories of the living environment essential to understanding the functioning of ecosystems, biodiversity and its threats, as well as global phenomena such as climate change;

Manage. Depending on the need, the manager can carry out ecological engineering actions to restore the environments and their species, or decide not to intervene;

Sensitizedr. Nature reserves constitute spaces for discovering nature through the implementation of specific tools dedicated to the public: games, files, brochures, trails, observatories …

Which species are protected by a nature reserve?

The network of nature reserves lists more than 320 protected species in France. Thus, it preserves 80% of the seal population of marine calves (especially in the Bay of Somme in Picardy) and a quarter of the numbers of Alpine ibex. These regulated sites are just as important for the preservation of bird species. threatened by accommodating more than half of the French population breeding English shearwater and the only significant colony of northern gannets (national nature reserve of Sept-Îles in Côtes-d’Armor). The major role played by overseas territories is also illustrated in the Amana nature reserve (Guyana) which protects the most important spawning site of the Leatherback Turtle known to the world.

What animals can we observe in France?

Close up on three reservations natural French:

  • The Bouches de Bonifacio is distinguished by the richness of its underwater fauna: Posidonia meadows, giant limpet, large mother-of-pearl, sea fan, grouper and its birds such as the crested cormorant or the gray shearwater;
  • The nature reserve of Vercors has the specificity of sheltering six wild ungulates: the ibex, the chamois; mouflon, red deer, roe deer and wild boar;
  • The national nature reserve of Camargue hosts 283 species of birds, 23 of which are of international importance, including the black-necked grebe, the spoonbill, the flamingo, the chipeau duck, the common crane, the mocking gull, the short-eared owl, the spectacle warbler or the reed bunting.

Do nature reserves benefit from international protection?

Each country establishes its protected areas according to its own terms (natural, biological, ecological, marine, forest, national park …) and its own regulations. However, there are two notions international going beyond local specificities:

  • The integral nature reserve represents the category of areas protected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) offering the highest level of protection. (Example: Lauvitel in the Ecrins National Park);
  • The biosphere reserve is a territory designated by Unesco as reconciling the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development, with the support of research, education and awareness, within the framework of its program on man and the biosphere (Dordogne basin, Gardon gorges, etc.).

The 5 most remarkable nature reserves in the world

Among the most famous sites on the planet, we can mention:

  • The national reserve of Masai mara (Kenya) where lions, elephants, zebras, hippos, giraffes, impalas and black rhinos live;
  • The national park of Serengeti (Tanzania) that a million wildebeest leave each year to migrate to the Masai Mara reserve. The crossing of the Grumeti river constitutes the most dangerous stage of their journey;
  • Elephant National ParkAddo (South Africa) is a high place of observation of pachyderms with some 450 specimens;
  • The wildlife reserve of the Cocksbomb (Belize) makes jaguars cohabit with the four other felines in the region: puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarondi;
  • The marine reserve of Galapagos Home to nearly 300 species of fish (including the Galápagos shark), small mammals (Galápagos sea lion, fur seal), cetaceans (humpback whale) and unique varieties of reptiles including giant tortoises and iguanas (land and sailors). Deploying an exceptional fauna of diversity, the Ecuadorian archipelago has been declared a Natural Heritage of Humanity by theUnesco in 1978.
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