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The opening to the French public of ‘natural’ sites of coastal dunes: the choice between ‘over-visiting’ and ‘over-protection’ of a shared natural heritage
Meur-Férec, C.; Favennec, J. (2005). The opening to the French public of ‘natural’ sites of coastal dunes: the choice between ‘over-visiting’ and ‘over-protection’ of a shared natural heritage, in: Herrier, J.-L. et al. (Ed.) (2005). Proceedings 'Dunes and Estuaries 2005': International Conference on nature restoration practices in European coastal habitats, Koksijde, Belgium 19-23 September 2005. VLIZ Special Publication, 19: pp. 475-486
In: Herrier, J.-L. et al. (Ed.) (2005). Proceedings 'Dunes and Estuaries 2005': International Conference on nature restoration practices in European coastal habitats, Koksijde, Belgium 19-23 September 2005. VLIZ Special Publication, 19. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. XIV, 685 pp., more
In: VLIZ Special Publication. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. ISSN 1377-0950, more

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Document type: Conference paper

Keywords
    Biodiversity; Dunes; ANE, France [gazetteer]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Meur-Férec, C.
  • Favennec, J.

Abstract
    This paper proposes some thoughts on the stakes of opening to the visiting public natural sites with particular reference to coastal dunes. In France the visiting public readily enjoys access to sites and particularly those situated along the coasts where this social activity forms part of the vocation of the Conservatoire du Littoral, the Office National des Forêts and the Conseils Généraux (Départements) (Meur-Ferec,1997). At ground level the diversity of each site together with the variable policies adopted by owners and managers, together with their differing geographical locations and social and economic pressures, produces an infinite variety of particular situations. The range of the degree of liberty of access to coastal sites varies greatly from the extremes of severely protected "Réserve Biologique Domaniale" only open to guided tours to free access peri-urban sea-side parks. Although most coastal zones readily admit the public, the inherent damage caused to sand dunes by “over-visiting” is sometimes badly accepted in scientific and ecological circles as constituting a real menace to our shared natural heritage. Reasoning in terms of risk we have to consider stakes of opening, or closing, of sites to the public. The reasons for this are multiple and the protection of the biodiversity for future generations is certainly one of them (the protection of human lives against the risk of sea water flooding is of course another prime aspect but, fortunately, this is a limited risk along the coasts of France). However, one can also consider the amenities acquired through site visits and the awareness of ecological issues that hopefully will be transmitted to future generations. To what degree the opening of sites will conciliate the major issues of conservation of the biodiversity / public access? These questions lead to a reflection concerning the evolution of the relation between Man and Nature (Kalaora, 1998; Miossec, 1998). The coastal dune environment has moved on over recent centuries from the “frightening desert” (Brémontier, 1797) to a precious spatial resource destined often for short term unbridled economic development, and nowadays sometimes evolves to a "sanctuary" precluding public access. In a reaction against development excess the current thought in sites management tends to privilege the conservation of the ecosystems in the name of biodiversity. However the best interests of Humanity as a whole cannot only be translated into terms of biodiversity which is, after all, only one of the several factors of good husbandry concerned by the protection of our shared heritage of Nature. The access accorded to a public, as a function of the nature of the sites, well informed, marshalled, limited in number and reasonably behaved, can also through an acquired awareness of our heritage become a guarantee of sustainable preservation.

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