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Population : 221 500 inhabitants
Area : 83,846 km²
Official regional languages : 14
Highest point : Bellevue de l’Inini (851 m)
Habitats : tropical mountain forest, alluvial forest, rivers, marshes, dry savannas, mangrove swamps, islets, rocky coast
French Guiana is the largest French department, and the most forested, with 96% of its area covered by an immense primary tropical rainforest, one of the best conserved on the planet. This outermost region of the European Union belongs to the Guianan Plateau, a region which also includes Suriname, Guyana and parts of Venezuela and Brazil. Its forest ecosystem, similar to the Amazon rainforest, is relatively well preserved due to its inaccessibility, which makes naturalist observations quite difficult.
French Guiana’s biodiversity has only revealed a few of its many treasures: for example, one hectare of forest contains more tree species than all of continental Europe ! The Amazonian National Park, the Kaw-Roura Nature Reserve, where the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock can be found, or the Nouragues Reserve rank among the largest protected areas in France. However, mining and logging activities, the construction of new roads, and lack of knowledge on conservation priorities are exposing this treasure of biodiversity and natural resources to degradation.
While French Guiana’s forest is home to more than 400 000 wildlife species, the territory’s other biotopes are also rich in biodiversity. Marshes host the giant otter, the rare matamata turtle, the black caiman and a huge colony of Agami herons. The coastal plain is also a region of dry savannas, which now represent less than 2% of French Guiana’s territory. Their flora and fauna is particular, adapted to these fragile habitats and exposed to threats. The Bearded tachuri is one of the emblematic species of the Trou Poissons savanna.
Mangrove swamps, the rocky coast, mudflats and islets are a paradise for marine fauna. Their boundaries are constantly changing, depending on the currents and swell that carry tons of sediment discharged by the Amazon river into the ocean. Leatherback turtles, scarlet ibises and frigate birds share their habitats with shrimp trawlers and fishermen. The French Guianese coast covers 5% of the territory but contains 70% of the population, a situation which can lead to conflicts between biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development. Consultation, knowledge of the issues, sharing the benefits yielded by wildlife protection and strengthening regulations are all necessary in order to meet that challenge.
In terms of legally protected areas, French Guiana boasts a national park (2.03 million ha in its core zone), six national nature reserves (298,600 ha), one regional nature reserve (2,500 ha), one state biological reserve (110,800 ha) and one biotope protected by prefectural decree. The Conservatoire du Littoral (Coastal conservatory) has also acquired 10 sites representing 3,414 ha. The designation of French Guiana’s RAMSAR areas has been carried out and new sites are currently being identified; the Basse Mana river, Kaw marshes and the Sinnamary and Iracoubo rivers estuaries have already been labeled. 49 type I and 43 type II ZNIEFFs (Natural Area of Ecological, Floristic and Faunistic Interest) have been identified in French Guiana (DEAL). ONF (National Forestry Agency) has set up a special nature brigade for the surveillance of forest areas in the interior, in particular to monitor gold mining activities by helicopter. A database on French Guiana’s flora, entitled AUBLET, has been created by IRD (French Institute of Research for Development) and the CSRPN (Regional Scientific Council for Natural Heritage) has also drawn up a list of plants and vertebrates of high natural heritage value.
To know more :
Fédération Guyane Nature Environnement : email@example.com