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Green news in France - May 2019

A monthly update on environmental events and occurrences in France: Night ambassadors, biodiversity study at golf courses and a fatal fungus

For the sake of starry, starry nights

One Saturday night in late February, a group of volunteer ‘night ambassadors’ from environmental organisation France Nature Environnement took the streets of Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées, to identify and photograph shop windows that remained lit overnight despite a 2013 law that prohibits lighting between 1am and 7am.

The aim, said a spokeswoman, is to “put together a dossier and send it to the mayor of Tarbes. Then we will meet the managers of these shops to make them aware of this light pollution and unnecessary energy consumption.”

By 2021, lighting of French heritage buildings, parks, gardens and car parks will have to be switched off at night.

Meanwhile the National Association for the Protection of the sky and night-time environment (ANPCEN) and the French regional natural parks federation (FPNRF) have renewed their partnership, and aim to increase awareness the various effects of artificial light on the night environment and society.

“Regional nature parks are particularly involved in the fight against light pollution. The starry sky is a heritage. Its preservation and enhancement contribute to the quality of a local region,” said Michaël  Weber, President of the FPNRF.

Nature spotting at tee-time

Golf courses in France are being invited to join a major biodiversity study, with participating courses eligible for a label depending upon their commitment.

For the past two years, the French Golf Federation and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle have carried out a vast study programme, with local naturalist structures called upon to carry out an inventory of wildlife.

Courses can be awarded a bronze label for biodiversity observation, silver for monitoring, and gold for implementing recommendations. Some thirty golf courses have already embarked upon the certification process.

“We will be interested in plants, butterflies, birds, dragonflies, orthopterans (crickets and grasshoppers), amphibians and bats [...] to conserve biodiversity and promote better practices,” said Aurélie Lacoeuilhe, a naturalist in charge of the partnership.

Fatal fungus alert

France’s National Health Security Agency (Anses) has issued an alert to monitor the spread of a tree fungus-like pathogen that could wreak havoc in some French forests.

Phytophthora ramorum was first detected in May 2017 in the forests of Monts d’Arrée (Finistère), where about 50ha of resinous Japanese larch trees were affected and consequently felled. “The tree tops had turned brown and all the needles had fallen off,” said Philippe Reignault, director of the Anses Plant Health Laboratory.

Since then, authorities have increased surveillance in the region as well as in other areas of France such as the Cévennes, Normandy and Limousin, to detect possible new outbreaks.

Now they are introducing further measures to prevent the spread of the disease. “We recommend stopping planting larch species in areas where there is a risk,” added Mr Reignault.

Controls will also be tightened in nurseries and garden centres, as the fungus is particularly fond of rhododendron plants.

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