Écrins national park
The Écrins National Park, whose WDPA code is: 659, is a French national park with an area of 91,800 hectares.
The Écrins National Park is by extension the fifth French national park covering a large part of the Écrins massif. Since 1990 the park has been awarded the European diploma for protected areas.
The park’s territory was created in 1973 and extends between the cities of Grenoble, Gap and Briançon. Geographically it is delimited by the Romanche, Guisane, Durance and Drac valleys.
The Écrins National Park is located in the south-east of France, between the department of Isère and that of the Hautes-Alpes, and covers a mountainous surface whose peaks reach altitudes between 800 and 4102 meters.
The park thus enumerates a hundred mountains higher than 3,000 meters and about forty glaciers (which cover about 17,000 hectares).
Inside this park we find 740 km of numbered and marked paths and thirty alpine huts. It has numerous mountains whose climbing has remained famous; from the Meije which reaches a height of 3,983 m, above the village of La Grave to Mount Pelvoux (3,946 m, for a long time wrongly considered the culmination of the massif) and passing through the Barre des Écrins, the culmination of the park at 4,101 m.
This area of France is highly appreciated by nature lovers, as it is home to a very rich flora and fauna: edelweiss, blue thistles, mugwort, gentians, etc .; and chamois, ibex, golden eagles, foxes, squirrels, marmots. With its numerous well-marked trails, the Écrins massif is an essential destination for hikers and climbing enthusiasts. In fact, this area is considered the second largest in France in the mountaineering sector. Do not miss the park’s documentation center (Maison du Parc), located in the Charance area, near the city of Gap, in the Hautes-Alpes department, and the park’s documentation center in Le Bourg-d’Oisans, Isère. Both provide visitors with a wealth of useful information and organize exhibitions on the Écrins massif.
More than 1800 plant species have been identified in the national park. This diversity corresponds to the different vegetation belts (from 710 to 4102 m). About 400 species structure the landscapes.
Larch gives its personality to the whole eastern part of the park. Above the edge of the woods, dwarf juniper reigns on the southern slopes, while the rhododendron occupies the northern ones.
About 168 plants have a strong patrimonial value: protected species (five leaf of the dauphiné, queen of the Alps), species registered in the national red book of rare or threatened species (cotoneaster atlanticus, prunus brigantina). The omnipresent lichens are often the last outposts of the plant world and color the stony ground, giving each site its original color. These plant landscapes evolve as the climate warms up. Thus, the species inherited from the glacial periods (pubescent birch, bicolor sedge) regress strongly, while the aspen, plain tree, starts to conquer the moors and rocks.
The Ecrins National Park must therefore be based on the principles of dynamic conservation, on floral inventories and on a cartography of natural environments.
The richness of the Écrins fauna (more than 350 vertebrate species) depends, as mentioned, on the diversity of ecological conditions: the Iberian vole and the ocellated lizard, southern species, divide the territory with the snow vole and the partridge white, wrecks of the last glaciations. As for invertebrates, only a small part of their population has revealed its mysteries. Emblematic species, the chamois had just 3000 specimens at the time of the creation of the Park. Today there are almost 15,000.
The return of the ibex was possible thanks to the reintroduction operations carried out: about 600 specimens frequent the rocky walls of the Écrins massif again. If some species are encountered only in the summer, others have been able to adapt perfectly to the rough winter climate. While the marmot falls into a deep sleep, the white hare and the white partridge cover themselves with their white livery and the black grouse creates an efficient igloo. The conservation of these species sensitive to the disturbance is strictly dependent on the regulation of numerous recreational activities (skiing, snowshoeing, …).
Symbol of the national park, the golden eagle has been the subject of regular censuses since 1985. It shares the sky with even larger birds of prey: the bearded vulture, the griffon vulture and the monk vulture.
The geographical situation of the park and the diversity of its environments explain the natural return of large predators such as the wolf and the lynx.