The fires in Brittany have destroyed more than 1,700 ha of moors, fir forests and hardwoods on the Monts d’Arrée, a remarkable natural site. In Gironde, more than 7,000 ha of forest burned in La Teste-de-Buch, near the Arcachon basin, and nearly 14,000 ha in Landiras, in a monoculture of pines.

According to the first observations of the Armorique Regional Natural Park, the fire “would not have a dramatic impact on emblematic bird species (…) such as the Eurasian curlew and the Saint-Martin and Eurasian harriers” because these birds are migrating or able to fly, even young ones.

The concern is more about “insects, molluscs, small mammals and birds, amphibians, reptiles which probably could not (have) escaped”, continues the regional natural park.

Fears are similar in Gironde. “The most impacted fauna is that with the least ability to move: non-flying insects, reptiles and amphibians and the young of both birds and bats”, while the animals are in the midst of a period of rearing of the young, told AFP Paul Tourneur, biodiversity project manager at the National Office of Landes Nord Aquitaine Forests.

Large ungulates, such as deer, may flee more easily.

The ONF manages the national forest of La Teste-de-Buch, one of the rare natural forests of the Landes, along the ocean.

“It was mainly a forest of maritime pines but with specificities, islands of deciduous trees, pedunculate oaks and cork oaks, some of which are very old, 200 to 300 years old”, describes Paul Tourneur. “It’s a heritage that we will not find overnight.”

– “Barbecue” – 

It is home to “a fairly rare bat”, the large noctule, the largest chiroptera in Europe, and “we have fears for the colony which was present”, he continues.

This national forest is also home to “rare habitats and species dependent on these environments that are not found elsewhere”, he continues, citing “the red pipite, a steppe bird” or “the largest lizard in Europe, the ocellated lizard”, a protected species.

“All of this had to go to the barbecue unfortunately,” he says fatalistically.

The Cistude Nature association is familiar with this forest and that of Landiras, also devastated by the flames. “It is a monoculture of pines, relatively poor in terms of biodiversity, but it enclaves natural environments, lagoon systems”, says Maud Berroneau, specialist in amphibians and reptiles.

Live there in particular the viviparous lizard or two species of protected butterflies, the fadet of the sedges and the checkerboard of the succise. Regarding the lizards, “we hope they have buried themselves in the ground, as we were already in a period of heat wave and drought for several weeks”, indicates Maud Berroneau. “The fire passes more quickly over these wetlands, maybe that’s what will save them,” she hopes.

The butterflies, themselves, “were in the state of caterpillars”, according to Akaren Goudiaby, who follows these populations of insects in the Landiras sector. “We can see very well on the aerial photographs that the area has burned and very probably the populations have disappeared”, he regrets.

At a time when the fires are under control, but not completely extinguished, the question arises of the future of these forests in Gironde. “First, we will observe what is happening. The pine is a pioneer species, used to fairly poor soils. The problem is that the soil has heated to a depth of more than one meter”, indicates Paul Tourneur .

“We wonder if natural regeneration will be able to take place. If that is not the case, we will have to use other tools”, he continues.

“Ecosystems have always adapted to pressures, but this is the first time that we have had such rapid change with climate change”, notes Loïc Obled, director general of the French Office for Biodiversity. “If the fires are recurrent, the regeneration capacity of ecosystems can be all the more affected,” he warns.