Little Bits of History

Ecology the French Way

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2015
Maritime pines

Maritime pines

June 19, 1857: The conveniently named 19 June 1957 law passes in France. The law is also called oi relative à l’assainissement et de mise en culture des Landes de Gascogne or the Law related to sanitation and culture of the Gascongne landes. Landes and Gironde are two of France’s departments (regions or territories in France and her overseas holdings) today. The law concerned a large region of the country known for its marshy, moorish condition. In the southwest of France, in what is today known as Aquitaine, the lands now support the Landes forest, the largest maritime-pine forest in Europe. The French word, landes, and the Gascon, lanas, mean “moors” or “heaths”.

The forest is known as the “moors of Gascony” and was formerly called the “moors of Bordeaux” and covers large portions of the two departments as well as small parts of the Lot-et-Garonne department. Several rivers find their source in the region. Unlike most European forests, Landes is mostly manmade and began with this law. The swampy land was only sparsely populated prior to the passage of the law and the people there were engaged in traditional pastoralism. The nomadic peoples traveled by stilt-walking to move through the wet terrain. With the passage of the law, the lands were reforested to protect against further erosion. The forest covers about 3,900 square miles and is about 90% maritime pines. Near the center, along the edges of rivers (which helped to drain the land) are some old growth trees of other species.

Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) is native to the area. It is a fast growing pine that favors a Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. In some places, it has become an invasive species, especially so in Africa. The tree reaches heights of 65 to 115 feet tall and has a diameter of about 4 to 6 feet. It has historically been used for fuel and more recently is used for timber. It is sometimes used as a decorative tree. The tree is used in the patented extract Pycnogenol which is marketed as a dietary supplement and claims to treat a variety of conditions. The product has not been proven to treat any chronic health disorder.

Before the law passed, the moors were mostly used for raising sheep but with the manure produced and with some thatching of the ground in the wet winters, it was possible to grow some rye as well. With the reforestation of the area, this was no longer possible and iconic image of the shepherds on stilts disappeared. It was replaced by a resin collector and his tools. The resins were used in a variety of ways and the trees were harvested for both timber for construction and for the making of paper. With modern processes, even some of these economic ventures are no longer in effect.

We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees. – Qwatsinas

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. – Hermann Hesse

If you’re in a forest, the quality of the echo is very strange because echoes back off so many surfaces of all those trees that you get this strange, itchy ricochet effect. – Brian Eno

A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high. – Fiona MacLeod

Also on this day: NASCAR – In 1949, NASCAR began.
Julius and Ethel – In 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – In 1939, Lou Gehrig’s illness was named.
Emancipation Proclamation, a Bit Late – In 1865, the people of Galveston were informed of the proclamation.
Dad’s Day – In 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated.

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