THE PARTICIPATORY LANDSCAPE OBSERVATORY OF FORCALQUIER AND MONTAGE DE LURE FEDERATION OF MUNICIPALITIES (FRANCE)

More and more surface areas in towns have been concreted, transformed and sealed. Currently, the change from small-scale agriculture to agro-industrial as well as, urban expansion into rural areas has meant a reduction in biodiversity (down 15% in the last 20 years). On a regular basis we are informed by researchers and the media of new species of animals that now take refuge in town, in private gardens or public parks because they can no longer find food and shelter in the countryside.
By means of this pilot project, Alpes de Lumiere Association wishes to verify this hypothesis with a group of volunteer inhabitants, checking the state of biodiversity on a local council level in a peri-urban zone that is about to be swallowed up by the largest agglomeration in Mid Provence - many people may think that biodiversity stops at the boundaries of emblematic areas like national parks, nature reserves or Natura 2000 spaces.
Participative science is used in this project as the main vector for environmental education and sustainable development. Is Volx still a village of rich biodiversity?  It may seem that Volx town shelters a population that has been here for several generations -still counting some farmers- and at the same time, it remains an attractive place to newcomers.  On this basis, we wish to facilitate the meetings between old and new residents and favor the transmission of local knowledge, especially on questions of gardening, good practice and cooking recipes based on seasonal and local quality products.
The project is focused on:
-    Developing a procedure of observation and curiosity, an attitude that will improve the ecological awareness of the population, by encouraging investigation and documentary research.
-    Involve citizenship in the collection of data in peri-urban areas by learning to observe, to determine and analyze.
-    Allow the inhabitants to improve their knowledge of the area, by meeting scientists and experts to allow a participative learning procedure.
-    Associate young people from the village to make them aware of the issues involved with biodiversity.
-    Promote participative science to enable the gathering of reliable data for the protection of biodiversity.
The main aim of this participatory experience in Volx is to improve the level of awareness surrounding environmental and ecological issues. Through remembering the important role of the seasons and the importance of finding a life style and level of consumerism that takes these into account, we could create new links between society, generations and cultures.  The project also aims to give value to the work of village gardeners as custodians of knowledge and their role in saving regional species, maintaining local seed stock and grafts from old varieties.  We must also identify invasive species, those that are diseased or heading for extinction by means of both lay and scientific knowledge.
The project addresses several thematic studies. Different species of animal or plants, types of habitat and natural environments will come under analysis. The experience also envisages facing several conflicts, such as interdependencies between flora/fauna/human beings, roles in biodiversity, the impact of man, adaptation to the topography and climate, land use (links to human activities), the issues of biodiversity preservation, suggestions for the reception of biodiversity...
Identified issues are:
-    Political and educational issues:  raise awareness in local government and amongst the population of the inherent dangers of urbanization, suggesting changes in lifestyle (individually and collectively) to adopt a more respectful attitude to the environment by creating a mini guide to good practice.
-    Social issues:  maintain the agricultural economy in the area, associating several categories of local players.
-    Issues within the area:  include biodiversity in urbanization documents, maintain the quality of life and the quality of the landscape.
The novelty of the project is based on the interest given to very different areas likely to shelter an “ordinary” biodiversity.  It is also innovative because of creating interest in the communal space in its entirety, how the communal district is being perceived including its natural spaces and agricultural land threatened by urbanization. The experience relies on a technical and scientific partnership concerned with efficiency and scientific method, also seeking economy and the pooling of resources between associations.