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Environmental news in France for February 2021

65% of France's Canal du Midi plane trees already destroyed by fungus, French government authorises three-year period of previously banned neonicotinoid insecticides and more

Canal du Midi planes gone in 20 years

The untreatable fungus or ‘canker stain’ that has already destroyed around 65% of the famous plane trees that line the Canal du Midi in parts of the Aude department (Haute-Garonne’s have been spared, inexplicably) could mean the trees are wiped out there in twenty years.

The pathogen causes purplish ‘flames’ to rise from the base of the trunk up to the branches, before cracking the trunk. Once infected, trees die within three to seven years.

As well as via spores entering fresh ‘wounds’ on healthy plane trees, the disease can also be transmitted via root contacts between neighbouring trees, and also by water, as in the case of the Canal Green news du Midi, where plane trees were first planted along the canal under Napoleon.

Replacement tress are being planted but many sections where diseased or dead trees have been removed remain treeless.

Lockdown boost for nature spotters

2020’s pair of Covid lockdown periods in France gave a significant boost to numbers of nature observers, as well as the organisations that register flora and fauna counts on a local level.

One such project was the Faune-Maine platform in Mayenne, Normandy, which is co-managed with the LPO, the French bird protection league. It saw a four-fold increase in registrations last year as people shared observations of different species in their garden and local habitats.

One new member, Jérôme Boulay, told France Bleu that he now spends several hours a week scrutinising various species around his home, including a hen harrier and a kingfisher that he spots on his daily walk along the banks of the Mayenne river which is close by.

“I’ve been coming here for a while but I’ve never seen a kingfisher before. And now, it’s rare that I don’t see one.

“Our gaze is sharpened, our ear is refined and our attention is precise,” he added.

Fish business takes eco approach

A firm that recycles disposable Covid-19 masks has taken the symbolic step of placing a recycling box next to a fish shop (poissonnerie) in the Bassin d’Arcachon, Gironde, to highlight the environmental impact of discarded masks.

Owner of the Arès fishmonger, Amandine de Lamothe, has long taken an eco-responsible approach: she sells only wild fish and does not use plastic bags. The cardboard recycling box was installed at a cost of €150 to the shop.

The masks are collected by the company Terracycle, which transforms them into granules that can be sold to manufacturers of products such as garden furniture.

Sugar beet pesticides allowed temporarily

In December, the French government reauthorised the use – for a three-year period only – of previously banned neonicotinoid insecticides, to support sugar beet growers suffering from aphid attacks.

Usage will be limited to seed coating, and not by direct spraying on plants.

Delphine Batho, President of Generation Ecology, one of the four green political parties in France, expressed her “disappointment at the serious regression that the rehabilitation of these poisons and their monstrous consequences on pollinators, birds and many other species”.

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