The French Mediterranean forest
D'un soleil à l'autre
First broadcast date
Report on the Provençal forest covering 4 million hectares, of which 60% is held by private owners.
The forestry operation has a low level of profitability for the owners and investment efforts are often destroyed by fire.
The Aleppo pine is the most prevalent tree that can colonize soils which are depleted by fires; the hardwoods are more common in the upper Var country.
France Régions 3 - Own production
Geography and landscapes
- Landscapes and environment / Eco-systems and sustainable development
- Economy / Agriculture, breeding
- Art, Culture and Knowledge / Science / Biology
Credits / Cast
- Stampfler Thierry - Journalist
- Buttner Denis - Journalist
- Richoillel Lionel - Participant
- De Vals Bertrand - Journalist
- Riffaud Alain - Participant
- France - South East - Forêt méditerranéenne
The French Mediterranean Forest
For this twentieth Earth Day (22 April 1990), a world-wide event aimed at making the public aware of the problems facing the environment, this film looks at the state of the Mediterranean forest in Provence. Having introduced the particular characteristics of this forest, the journalist emphasises its fragility (degraded woodlands, poor soil, extremely variable climate) and the dangers which threaten it. In the context of rural depopulation, the increase of poorly maintained forest wastelands, land pressure, the sprawl of the hills and the recurrent fires, the film shows the economic, social, but also ecological issues/stakes which the upkeep and exploitation of the forests represents.
But whether it is the Aleppo pine of the Bouches du Rhone or the oak in the Haut-Var, improving the woods in order to exploit them in a way which protects them from fires and guarantees the regenerating the existing trees or replacing them with a dense cover of woodland is not profitable. The fragmentation of woods into small private properties, the risks of fire, the cost of clearing or the digging up roots and the lack of income that follow from that are not favourable for woodland production. Through lack of funds the property owners are tempted by coppicing which risks hampering the regeneration of oaks in the long term. Hesitant before the prohibitive costs of clearing, other owners allow a highly inflammable ground cover to develop. Unprofitable, the Provencal forest has now enetered a true vicious circle. It does not provide wood, few jobs and its upkeep is more and more expensive. Its low productivity is even more marked since the capital invested can literally go up in smoke at any moment, which discourages upkeep while that it turn encourages the growth of a particularly inflammable undergrowth. In this situation, the film emphasises on the role of farmers and property owners as "planners/forward thinkers" and "guardians of the territory". Certainly the exploitation of the Provencal forest is not profitable. "But surely the preservation of this superb environment constitutes sufficient reason to help them maintain this exceptional legacy?" the film ends.
On this Earth Day, journalists also want to make the public aware and inform them, even if that means challenging accepted ideas. The experts interviewed, particularly from the Office National des Forets and the head of the Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière, take a stand. They want to show the indispensable role which exploiting the forest commercially plays in upkeep and preservation, even a reconstitution of a denser tree cover. They agree that when the forest is productive it is generally well maintained, the undergrowth is clean and the forest is more resistant to fires. In the new context of the extension of wasteland, the people from the ONF retract/go back on the 19th century theories of the experts of the Eaux et Forets who fought for a long time against the rights of use and grazing in Provence, accusing the traditional exploitations of degrading even destroying the woods. By taking up the theme of a productive forest defended by the ONF, the film contradict the development of a wild forest, preserved from any human action. It thus comes up against the philosophies largely shared by a city-dwelling public that the action of Man, of companies and particularly thew commercial exploitation of the woods is destrying the forests.
Martine Chalvet, L’invention de la forêt méditerranéenne, Aix-en-Provence, Thèse de doctorat d’Etat, 2000.
Alexandre Seigue, La forêt circumméditerranéenne et ses problèmes, Paris, Maisonneuve Larose, 1985.