The Courrier de l'environnement n°27, April 1996

In memoriam : Pittosporum taniatum from Nouvelle Calédonie ; Urbi et orbi : in british ; Sommaire en français.

[R] Populations and dialects: the case of the Tree Chaffinch (L)
Certain theories are based on the observation of animal and plant populations on more or less large islands that lie more or less close to continents. These theories can also be observed in places nearer to us. Indeed, the fragmentation of habitats - due to human activities, for example - reproduces the environment of an archipelago. Thus, in the South-West of France, tree chaffinches, Fringilla coelebs, dispose of discontinuous woods and forests. This species only remains in these forests thanks to emigration from a particular source. These fragmented bird populations work as a metapopulation. Thanks to the different songs of each bird and of each group of birds (dialects), the author has been able to show the different population movements, thus comforting the theories of certain biogeographers and demecologists.
By Jean Joachim, INRA, Institut de recherche sur les grands mammifères, BP 27, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan cedex.

[R] French National Botanical Conservatories (L)
At the end of the seventies, conservation facilities were set up in Brest, Porquerolles and Nancy. Their aim was to cultivate endangered species and increase their numbers. At the same time, a law on the protection of nature was implemented. These facilities lead to the creation of national conservatories (on the sites above and in Gap-Charance, Bailleul and Mascarin), the role of which is to protect wild plants in France. In situ (on-site) and ex situ (in appropriate areas and then reintroduced into the wild) preservation combine to obtain an integrated approach to the preservation of wild plants.
By Jean-Paul Galland.

[R] Animal science: an art or a science? (L)
The forebearers of this movement were vets who taught at the Alfort veterinary school. At the end of the XVIIIth century, they decided to put into practice the science of domestic animal husbandry. Animal science was born from the necessity to teach. Just after the Second World War, the animal production division of the newly-created INRA benefited from the impulse given to research, teaching and development in this area.
The original science was then split up between fundamental and applied sciences. Since the eighties, the only purposes that this science may serve are the improvement of knowledge and maximisation of livestock productivity as well as increasing farmer profit. Livestock farming practices and systems, involving the environment, humans and animals, have become the main research topic and the effects of the changes proposed can be assessed on this relationship. The zootechnician's job has radically changed and animal science represents a new hybrid object, involving both the life-sciences and human sciences.
By Etienne Landais, INRA/SAD, route de Saint-Cyr, 78026 Versailles cedex and Joseph Bonnemaire, ENESAD, 26, bd du Docteur-Petitjean, 21000 Dijon.

[R] The dispersal of transgenic plants- what are the risks for the environment? (L)
Plants that have been genetically modified so as to better suit production and market conditions are progressively moving out of the laboratory. This article is an extract of an important study based on interviews with researchers, industrialists, ecologists, civil servants working in various French ministries, etc.
Three texts have been chosen:
- Privatised public research? States the growing weight of the private sector in the financing and thus in the orientation of public research. The public/private association seems to work quite well in the United States, whereas in France, and especially in the biotechnological field, it is something of a problem and is accused of creating secret zones.
- Risk as a scientific study topic. Summing up the situation. These imaginary or real risks are at the heart of the debate between industrialists, researchers and the general public and they are being submitted to scientific investigation, even before any major accident has occurred. A one-off... The subject is complicated because analogies with phenomena observed up to now (i.e. toxicity, introduction of exotic plants, etc.) are doubtful and incomplete.
- A luke-warm mobilisation of French ecologists. Compared to ecologists in many other countries, French ecologists seem to be fairly uninvolved as regards biotechnologies. They are nevertheless a link between the general public, researchers and legislators. Only France-Nature-Environnement (the French federation of nature conservation societies) has played an active role.
By Catherine Goupillon, service de presse de l'institut Curie, 26, rue d'Ulm, 75231 Paris cedex 05.

[R] A minister's point of view: Corinne Lepage (L)
On September 25th, 1995, the CNRS reflection club "Science, Research and Society" held a meeting with Corinne Lepage, Environment Minister at the time, and Gérard Mégie, director of the Pierre-Simon-Laplace Institute (an institute for the study of the global environment). The theme of this meeting was: " The environment, a social or a scientific problem? ".
The following statement by Corinne Lepage sums up the article: "I hope that a public space will soon be created, where sciences, politics and democracy regularly reinforce one another".
Corinne Lepage, ministre de l'Environnement, 20, av. de Ségur 75032 Paris SP.

[R] Let's ask researchers what exactly is a nice clean river ? (L)
Have we forgotten that a river is a complex biotope in permanent interaction with its environment as well as a social topic ? Will research be able to supply the evidence allowing to judge the quality of rivers?
By Jean-Luc Laurent directeur de l'Eau, ministère de l'Environnement, 20, av. de Ségur 75032 Paris SP.

[R] Nature is reconquering rural areas (L)
In Alsace, Mother Nature and farming used to cooperate quite efficiently in preserving traditional environments such as orchards and rieds (wetland areas). The industrialisation of agriculture and economic recession have led to the deterioration of these traditional landscapes. In response to alarming reports by some nature conservation associations, Alsace-Nature, a local association, suggests that we should leave a place to nature in the Alsatian farming landscape.
Par Alsace-Nature, 17, rue du Général-Zimmer, 67000 Strasbourg.

[R] Fallows - an advantage or disadvantage (L)
This article discusses the advantages or disadvantages of fallow or reverted land. It moves through five main points:
- Brambles are attacking villages and are a threat to civilisation… and not only civilisation…
- reverted lands are definitely not a danger for nature
- from psychiatry to a study of ecosystems
- a summary of the main points
- unveiling one of the truths the public needs to know
By François Terrasson, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, évolution des systèmes, 36, rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris.

[R] The end of an era (L)
Patrick Legrand evokes the reasons and consequences of the emergence of environmental problems. The author shows how these problems are starting to turn habits upside down and the need to move with one's times in order to be in phase with this era, an era where associations, in particular conservation associations, play a growing role…
Par Patrick Legrand, INRA/DPEnv., 147, rue de l'Université, 75338 Paris cedex 07; legrand@paris.inra.fr

[R] Genetic erosion in the arid regions of Tunisia (L)
Thanks to limited cereal farming based on non-aggressive adapted cultivars, Tunisia has been saved from becoming a desert. Mechanisation has led to the erosion of soils and the loss of precious plant genetic resources.
The article also contains a brief summary on parks and nature reserves in Tunisia..
By A. Abdelkefi, M. Bousaïd and M. Marrakchi, laboratoire de génétique de la faculté des Sciences, 1060 Tunis (Tunisie).

[R] The present state of the inventory of tropical floras (L)
An especially rich and diverse flora grows in our tropical regions. However, this flora has never been described or listed, and given the present state of exploration and taxonomical work, certain regions never will be. This article gives a precise description of the conditions in which knowledge on tropical plants and vegetation is produced.
By Odile Poncy and Jean-Noël Labat, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, laboratoire de Phanérogamie, 16, rue Buffon, 75005 Paris.

[R] De Latinae linguae usu ad circumcolens exponendum (L)
The latin translator of the Urbi et orbi no.26 of the Courrier (December 1995) returns on his achievement and explains how young is our environmental vocabulary.
Par Jean-Pierre Nicol, 18, rue Pierre-Bezançon 94440, Marolles-en-Brie.

Revision : Nicola Scott