entete experts <strong>Parole</strong> aux experts Dune du Pilat

Word to the experts

They are, in a way, the “guardians of the Dune”. Engineer, botanist, landscaper ... and many experts find here an inexhaustible field of study and exploration. So much knowledge to pass on so that everyone becomes aware of the issues related to the preservation and management of this moving natural monument. 


Nathalie Madrid, Delegate of Rivage Aquitaine, within the Conservatoire du littoral

In 2017, Nathalie Madrid joined the Conservatoire du littoral, taking responsibility for the Aquitaine delegation, which has been engaged since 1998 in a land acquisition policy in order to guarantee the maintenance of public space while permanently protecting the Grand Site from the Dune of Pilat.

What does the Dune du Pilat Grand Site represent for you with its landscape components?

"One of the largest natural sites in France"

Nathalie Madrid e1624272254456 <strong>Parole</strong> aux experts Dune du Pilat

It is one of the largest sites in the New Aquitaine region, see one of the largest natural sites in France, due to its dimensions which are, for the best known physical but also and above all geological, historical and cultural. Beyond its monumental aspect, it is necessary to be interested in the geological “monument” which deserves, as such, to be respected. It is a totally atypical training process on the Aquitaine coast, a constantly moving dune, unique in Europe. This type of dune is usually found on the edge of desert areas.

Can you present the impact of your work on the Grand Site de la Dune du Pilat?

"A role of acquisition and management"

The main action of the Coastal Conservatory on the Great Site of the Dune du Pilat is, as everywhere else on the French coast, to acquire land holdings in order to guarantee current and future generations access to these natural spaces and limit its artificialization. For several years, an intervention perimeter has been decided which commits us to acquire all the natural plots within it, whether they are in dune or wooded areas.

The second mission of the Conservatory is to ensure the establishment of a sustainable public management of its land because the objective is not to withdraw them from the public, on the contrary! As a land operator, the establishment for which I work therefore entrusts the management of its properties to a local public actor and supports it in defining a strategy to be implemented. Converted into a management plan, this becomes the common “road map”. The Syndicat Mixte de la Grande Dune du Pilat was appointed in 2012 to manage all the plots gradually acquired by the Conservatory on the Dune du Pilat site. Today this represents more than 260 hectares. Every year, we meet with all the local partners to assess the impact of the elements of the management system and adapt them if necessary.

Beyond restoring the acquired plots and fighting against the trivialization of places, management also includes the regulation of uses which are diverse. On the Dune, they are essentially sporty and fun (practice of free flight, boarding for sea crossings, hunting, hiking, etc.). It is also a question of organizing, managing and supervising the flows generated by these activities so that they can, at least for those compatible with the sensitivity of the site, continue. Their regulated framework makes it possible to meet the primary objective of the Conservatory, namely to preserve natural spaces and their biodiversity. On the Dune, these are actions yet to be undertaken with our manager. They will be facilitated by new acquisitions.

The scientific monitoring carried out by the Syndicate are real management tools and provide valuable information on the flora and fauna established on the grounds of the Conservatory. Let us not forget that the reconquest of biodiversity is at the heart of our mission.

What message do you want to convey to visitors?

"Be amazed but respect"

Visitors should come here with respect for this unique place. That they consider it as a natural space with incredible landscape components and not as a tourist attraction.
“It is a dune of blond sand, in a green and blue setting, a nugget between sea and forest, a jewel of the French coast”.

What is your take on the 12 years of public management?

"Balanced management"

The Syndicat Mixte, with the Conservatoire du littoral, and the partners who are aware of the fragility of this site and of the need to put in place a lasting policy, leads real balanced actions to achieve the fragile balance between preservation of natural spaces and reception of the public. Today, all the fundamentals (land management, regulatory frameworks, partnerships, awareness-raising actions, improvement of reception facilities, etc.) are in place to sustainably pursue actions in favor of enhancing the Grand Site. Our manager got heavily involved and showed consistency in action.

Many think that trampling accelerates the advance of the dune and degrades it but faced with natural elements and in particular the action of the wind, this is not the case. The public can be numerous because the management tools are in place and effective. The challenge today is the preservation of the “green” component of the Grand Site. It is the forest area that suffers from unauthorized parking and anarchic pedestrian traffic causing a risk of fire.

Even if this does not fall within its competence or its obligations, the Syndicat Mixte has taken up this subject. It had to be done and it was done. Today, the management of peaks in attendance during the summer is dealt with at the scale of the territory, in a global approach involving all public actors. We need to diversify modes of locomotion and welcome more qualitatively visitors coming by bicycle, public transport or using shuttles from a relay car park.

The mixed union played a leading role on this file but on many others during this decade and today the manager of the Large Site is taken more into consideration. It is the confirmation that we must continue the actions undertaken which sometimes, often, take place over time, over several years.

What would you like to add that you would not have expressed by answering the 4 previous questions?

"A decisive turning point"

We are on the eve of major changes with the latest land acquisitions, the requalification of the reception area… It is a question of being up to the task to take a turn all together. All the public actors and partners must work together, work in the same direction to define the objectives of tomorrow to ensure the future of this site which leaves no one indifferent.

Aurelien Caillon, Botanist within the South Atlantic National Botanical Conservatory.

Since his arrival in Gironde in 2011, Aurélien Caillon has been the botanist referent for the inventory of the flora of Gironde as well as for invasive exotic plants in New Aquitaine.

What does the Dune du Pilat Grand Site represent for you with its landscape components?

When I first discovered the Dune du Pilat, I absolutely did not expect to find such a geological formation. On its crest, I felt a feeling of vastness.

It feels like a big surprise, you wouldn't expect it to be so big and so vast.

Aurelien Caillon <strong>Parole</strong> aux experts Dune du Pilat

After working on the subject for a few years, I now see it as a book, telling a multitude of stories. It is a real natural heritage with its animal, plant, fungal, lichenic and geological components. 

At first glance, the environment appears hostile, desert, uninhabited. On the contrary, populations lived here (the landscape was quite different), before the Middle Ages! The landscape there was of course very different. It is fascinating to imagine that when visitors arrive at the dune crest, they are at the top of a mille-feuille, made up of several geological layers that bear witness to ancient dunes, forests, and lakes ...

My vision as a botanist encompasses the entire Atlantic dune massif. The latter offers a place of transition and refuge for many animal and plant species, many of which are endemic to the South Atlantic coast.

Can you present the impact of your work on the Grand Site de la Dune du Pilat?

The role of the South Atlantic National Botanical Conservatory (CBNSA) aims to acquire knowledge relating to the state and evolution of wild flora and natural habitats according to scientific methods. This involves the identification and characterization of rare and endangered plant species, but also of more common ones and sometimes invasive exotic ones.

Floristic inventories, research for rare species and use of bibliographic resources are all methods deployed to better know, understand and preserve our plant heritage. The ultimate objective is to ensure the conservation of this plant heritage.

My prospecting work on the dune of Pilat started in 2011. These inventory and sampling work consisted in drawing up an inventory of the plant diversity present on the Dune.

At the end of this work, a real partnership was born between the Botanical Conservatory and the manager of the Grand Site. My role for several years has thus consisted of supporting the Dune teams in setting up monitoring of the flora and its habitats. These regular inventories have made it possible to clearly identify the wild flora of the Dune: emblematic species such as the Oyat and the Immortelle des dunes, atypical species such as the common reed, the ribbon tree or the red willow (specific to wetlands), rare and protected species such as the famous thyme-leaved toadflax, Port Silenus and Dune Hawkweed or those considered to be invasive exotic: Pampas lily of the valley or Garlic ...

Our goal: to follow the evolution of flora and habitats on a constantly moving dune! But also put in place a management plan adapted to the challenges identified. In which sectors and which species should we intervene? Where should protective islands be positioned to avoid any trampling? What invasive species should we manage…?

On the Great Site of the Dune of Pilat, the Botanical Conservatory has recommended monitoring and quantifying the number of individuals of the species identified, then mapping the habitats on the dune.

“Through its support role, the Botanical Conservatory allows the Mixed Syndicate to set up appropriate preservation methods for certain species or certain sites. For example, the Gaillouneys site is very rich in remarkable heritage species, many of which are protected. It is essential to identify sensitive areas (reservoirs of biodiversity, etc.) where visitors must be channeled more to avoid too much wandering ”.

What message do you want to convey to visitors?

Enjoy the scenery and pay attention to everything around you. Listen to your senses. Observe. Soak up yourself.

I invite them to have the curiosity to move around, to take a closer look at this vast natural landscape which seems to be in slow motion, while it teems with life, at certain times of the day. You have to spend time there, take advantage of this time and this timeless space that nothing freezes. Nature offers us an incredible spectacle of which everyone is the guarantor. Nature imposes itself on us, and it's intense.
Then, I call on everyone to be accompanied by a cultural mediator during a visit. I am convinced that the vast majority of visitors who took part in these activities discovered a myriad of new and exciting information! For example, do you know the Dune Panicaut's strategy to disperse its seeds? Do you know the endemic insect infested with the thyme leaf flax? How do plants resist drought, strafing by sand, the constant movement of the dune?

What is your take on the 12 years of public management?

“An objective of preservation”

The creation of a public management structure, the Syndicat Mixte, made it possible to raise awareness of the major issues linked to this exceptional natural space, via the web, social networks, the messages transmitted during the guided tours offered to the public. .
Everything is done to channel and educate visitors. Regular checks are carried out to reduce activities that can harm flora or fauna, such as campfires in the woods.
Without the creation of the Syndicat Mixte, there would have been no real management of flows, with “wild” parking lots causing damage to natural environments. The manager's role is to inform visitors, to support them and to raise their awareness. The dune of Pilat is one of the emblematic French tourist sites and attracts more than 1 million visitors each year. It is important to maintain the good state of conservation of the dune in parallel with an ever increasing number of visitors. The Mixed Syndicate also makes it possible to bring this message to bear on the issues and to channel the flow of visitors.

What would you like to add that you would not have expressed by answering the 4 previous questions?

“A source of knowledge”

I invite everyone not to see the Dune of Pilat as a desert. It is essential to make known all this diversity and all the interactions that species have with each other. “Relocate yourself to this ecosystem as a human being and an animal. We have to learn to look in order to respect what surrounds us ”.
Knowledge is an essential foundation, allowing the implementation of actions of protection, conservation and reception of the public. Communication on these different aspects, which can sometimes seem sharp, scientific and a little too technical, is however fundamental.