The Massane beech forest, a UNESCO world heritage site

On Wednesday, July 28, 2021, the beech forest of the Massane Forest National Nature Reserve was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the list of "Primary and ancient beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe" along with the Grand-Ventron (Vosges Mountains) and Chapter (Hautes-Alpes) reserves for France.

A prestigious international classification that recognizes the age and the high level of "naturalness" of this old forest of the Mediterranean basin in free evolution for more than 150 years.

This is the fruit of the exemplary work carried out on both the knowledge and the management of the reserve since its creation in 1973 by the co-management organizations: the Association des Amis de la Massane and the Fédération des Réserves Naturelles Catalanes.


A little history...

For more than a century, the Massane forest has not been exploited and the life and death processes of this ecosystem have been free. However, exploited for a long time, notably to satisfy the needs of the Catalan forges with charcoal, around 1885 an engineer from the water and forestry department decided to suspend cutting in order to protect the soil and springs of the upper valley.

The site has long attracted naturalists, and old archives refer to the passage of Joseph Piton de Tournefort (1656-1708), botanist to Louis XIV, who certainly herorized at La Massane, nearly 300 years ago. But it is especially since the foundation by Henri de Lacaze Duthiers in 1882, of the Arago Laboratory of Banyuls-sur-Mer, that thanks to the work of many scientists, the Massane forest has become one of the classic stations of international zoology, in the same way as the forest of Fontainebleau.

In the 1950s, the development of tourism on the Catalan coast posed a major threat to the Massane forest, which is part of the territory of Argelès-sur-Mer. Nature conservationists, scientists and breeders demanded protection of the site, which was not achieved until 1973, when a nature reserve was created that now protects 336 hectares of the Albera massif, the last link in the Catalan Pyrenees before the Mediterranean.


The Massane forest

Located at a biogeographic crossroads between Pyrenean and Mediterranean influences, in the heart of the Albera massif, the Massane Forest National Nature Reserve is home to an old, freely evolving beech forest, a mecca for biodiversity and research in France, but also on an international scale, with more than 8200 species listed on only 336 ha.

The maturity and naturalness of the stands are illustrated by the presence of several hundred trees with a diameter of more than one meter and an age of over 300 years. The tallest Beech measured reaches 32 meters, and the largest 1.80 meters in diameter! La Massane is a representative of the glacial refuge of Catalonia and is considered to be the origin of the post-glacial recolonization of the Eastern Pyrenees and the southwestern Massif Central, a rare and original genetic lineage for Europe.

The Massane Reserve actively collaborates in numerous research programs aimed at better understanding the functioning of freely evolving forest ecosystems, particularly in the context of global change. Thus, more than 100 partnerships were implemented during the last management plan.
Thanks to numerous scientific investigations, we now have an inventory of over 5,300 species. More than 500 bibliographic citations refer to the Massane forest. About sixty publications present the work carried out on the nature reserve, which has become a well-known site.


(With the National Nature Reserve of the Massane Forest)


National Nature Reserve of the Massane Forest

66700 Argelès-sur-Mer


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