Rescuing Glénan daffodil, one of the rarest plants in Europe
‘The daffodil needs human intervention to survive,’ explains Nathalie Delliou, a guide/animator for Bretagne Vivante. She has been keeping a watch on the natural reserve for nearly 20 years. She now benefits from the support of Frederic Bioret, who is the curator of the reserve since 2001. He wishes to carry out an assessment of the impact of the latest field operations on the flora of the island. ‘The clearing of land has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the flowering of the daffodil,’ says the curator while piling up weeded grass that will be burnt later on. ‘Without this operation, the bramble, ferns and Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) could stifle its growth.’
Saving a flower both fragile and strong
There remained only 300 specimens of the Glenan Daffodil in 1974. The land was first cleared in 1985 and since then, the population of daffodils is regularly counted by Bretagne Vivante volunteers and botanists from the National Botanical Conservatory of Brest. The number of plants in blossom had grown to over 8,500 in 1987 and has reached up to 144,000 specimens before later stabilising at around 60,000. Despite its ability to blossom on an island that is exposed to natural elements, the Glenan Daffodil requires much protection. Since 1997 a protected area has been set up around the natural reserve, at the heart of the island of Saint Nicolas and on Brunec, Le Veau and La Tombe islets. Even if it goes without saying nowadays that picking daffodils are prohibited, Nathalie Delliou recalls that this measure was not easily accepted initially, but she has issued only one ticket for such an offence since taking oath in office in 1995. The guide was forced to issue a fine to a stroller who had picked up 14 plants in front of a group that she was accompanying. ‘It was important to make an example so as to be taken seriously,’ concludes the guardian of these beautiful bellflowers.
To preserve the indigenous flora and fauna
Protecting the Glenan Daffodil is essential but it is not the only concern for the people managing the reserve. Frederic Bioret considers that the growth of invasive species introduced by individuals, such as the ice-plant (Carpobrotus edulis, called ‘griffes de sorcières’ – witch’s claws in French), should be closely monitored.
Action plan to fight against invasive species
This decorative plant whose leaves are gorged with water can grow up to a metre a year and has a tremendous ability to spread. ‘Just like on some islands of Brittany and Corsica, it has spread in some parts of the shore of the island of Saint Nicolas to the detriment of the native flora and fauna,’ explains the curator. He is, however, pleased to notice that the latest weeding operations undertaken by volunteers, students and technical services of the city of Fouesnant have enabled the rapid recovery of the primitive vegetation. The plot of land that was cleared indeed features here and there, amongst the rocks covered with lichen, some sparse clumps of rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum), sea pink (Armeria maritima), sea campion (Silene uniflora) and sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima). On the other hand, the adjoining unclear seaside lawn has been invaded by the prolific ice plant. ‘We have run a sensitisation campaign for the residents and exotic plant lovers, who have finally realised the consequences of their actions,’ says Nathalie Delliou.
Stop the exploitation of the maerl banks of Glenan
She shows concern for an even greater scourge threatening the archipelago, the rise in sea levels. ‘The coastline has receded by 2 metres in a few years and we think that the massive extraction of Maerl is worsening the phenomenon. Thankfully extractions were completed in 2012.’ The complex architecture of Maerl banks provides a vast number of ecological niches, which facilitates biological diversity. Some 800 animal species and over 100 algae species live and reproduce in these niches. The Maerl banks of the Glenan Archipelago is the largest in Europe. Considered as a non-renewable resource due to its low expansion rate, Maerl is a protected habitat within the Natura 2000 network. The state has banned its extraction in 2011 after having granted one last extraction concession (45,000 tons a year) to sand quarrying operators, but only for the treatment of drinking water. Nathalie Delliou has campaigned alongside Bretagne Vivante volunteers, local fishermen and officials from 1986 to stop the massacre. Besides, she hasn’t hesitated to write a letter to sensitise industrialists using Maerl in their production processes. Nathalie Delliou points out humbly that ‘we have been able to convince some leading cosmetics manufacturers like Daniel Jouvence for example, whose foundation now supports us’. She admits feeling worried about the consequences of this massive exploitation.
Project to extend the nature reserve to the sea
Scientific studies undertaken on the extraction site of the Glenans Archipelago (Pinot, 1997; Biomaerl, 1999) have indeed shown that in 20 years, the algae and macro fauna have completely disappeared from the exploited banks. In addition, the silting up caused in the surroundings has an impact on resident species such as scallops and banded carpet shells (Tapes rhomboides). With the win, the reserve keeper now focuses on the expansion project of the nature park to the sea.
Project to extend the nature reserve to the sea
With this win, the reserve keeper now focuses on the expansion project of the nature park to the sea.
According to Nathalie Delliou, the expansion project of the nature park to the sea would enable a better management of nautical activities and frequentation of the islands, as well as information and sensitisation with considering conservation and management issues.
In the meantime, she appreciates the joint efforts made by the operators of Natura 2000 sites with the local authorities and the General Council that have been eagerly involved for many years in sensitising the general public and preserving the marine heritage of the Finistère region.
Studies on the Glénan extraction site (Pinot, 1997, Biomaerl 1999) have shown that in 20 years all the algae and macro faunal life have disappeared from the exploited banks, not to mention the silting created all around which has an impact on resident species, such as scallop or pink clam.