DU Wiki > Ă„mnen - Subjects > Tourism studies > KG3012 > Seminar 1 Cultural and natural World Heritage sites > France > Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island by Adeline Danthon
Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island by Adeline Danthon
A few thousand kilometers away from metropolitan France, the oversea departement of Réunion Island was awarded the title of Natural World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2010 . Now 40% of the whole island is recognized as a natural treasure that needs to be preserved . The volcanic island is mostly known for its impressive landscape and the diversity of its flora and fauna, thus boasting an amazing ecosystem . Its rainforest is home to 230 unique plant species . The fact that 30% of the spaces on the island stayed absolutely untouched even after its discovery is also remarkable .
In terms of mountainous areas, what makes the specificity of La Réunion Island is its two volcanoes, the Piton des Neige (towering at 3 070 meters ) and the still very active Piton de la Fournaise  which latest eruption was in December 2010 . The Island also boasts a very distinctive type of relief called “cirque” (which is the French word for “circus”) or more commonly called caldera. The three cirques of La Réunion are thus massive volcanic features that look like natural amphitheaters. Also recognized as a characteristic relief of the island are the “remparts” which can be described as very steep natural walls made of rock .
The General Concil of the departement of La Réunion owns 80% of the World Heritage property . The UNESCO site is managed by the public organization of La Réunion National Park which duty is to protect and highlight the specificities of the area, to welcome visitors and give information about the site, and to work with all the stakeholders of the island in order to ensure that the development of the territory does not damage the fragile ecosystem .
The public establishment of the National Park in order to manage the natural area occurred only two years before the distinction of the island as a Natural World Heritage site . As such, the park still requires some managerial actions in order for its organization to be effective in the preservation of the area. To do so, the park will need important financial resources as well as a long-term plan for its staff. Working together will all the stakeholders of the island as well as the local communities is also a requirement that the staff of the National Park will have to fulfill .
The site also encountered threats due to the introduction of some invasive alien plant species on its territory. These might change or damage the ecosystem of the park and need constant monitoring and control. This is especially challenging considering that introduction of these species can be made outside of the delimited perimeter of the park and result in a propagation within its limits .
Most of the protected area is covered in forest, making fire management another issue that needs to be addressed. Parts of the property were already destroyed in fires in 2010 and 2011, threatening more than 30 endemic species as well as the site’s affiliation as a World Heritage site . The island will have to develop a system of fire prevention, which is made challenging by the fact that it might introduce new invasive alien species or damage the zone by trying to facilitate accesses and thus increasing the frequentation .
Another issue of the World Heritage site of La Réunion is its increasing number of visitors. Even though, as mentioned by the Tourism Board , the UNESCO label brings new opportunities for the island to promote itself and acquire an international recognition, the numerous tourists that travel to discover this natural heritage site might damage the ecosystem and the biodiversity of this fragile landscape .
Finally, the recognition of the island as a World Heritage site leads to the cancelation of a geothermal project that was supposed to take place in the protected perimeter .
 Île de la Réunion - Site Officiel du Tourisme, 2009. Île de la Réunion: pitons, cirques et remparts classés au Patrimoine mondial [Online] Available at http://www.reunion.fr/menu-thematique/la-reunion-un-monde-unique/ile-reunion-pitons-cirques-remparts-patrimoine-mondial-unesco.html [Accessed November 8]
 UNESCO, 2013. Pitons, cirques and remparts of Réunion Island [Online] Available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1317/ [Accessed November 7]
 France 24, 07/08/2010. La Réunion fait son entrée au patrimoine mondial de l'Unesco [Online] Available at http://www.france24.com/fr/20100802-france-ile-de-la-reunion-patrimoine-mondial-unesco-parc-national-pitons-cirques-remparts-fournaise [Accessed November 8]
 Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 2013. La Réunion [Online] Available at http://www.ipgp.fr/pages/03030807.php [Accessed on November 8]
 General Concil of La Réunion, 2013. La Réunion au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO [Online] Available at http://www.cg974.fr/index.php/La-Reunion-au-patrimoine-mondial-de-l-UNESCO.html [Accessed November 8]
 La Réunion National Park, 2013. Présentation [Online] Available at http://www.reunion-parcnational.fr/Presentation,99.html [Accessed November 8]
 UNESCO, 2013. State of Concervation - Pitons, cirques and remparts of Réunion Island [Online] Available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/1879 [Accessed November 9]
 Le Nouvel Observateur, 31/10/2011. Incendie: La Réunion espère sauver son label de l'Unesco [Online] Available at http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/planete/20111031.OBS3553/incendie-la-reunion-espere-sauver-son-label-de-l-unesco.html [Accessed November 9]
 Stéphane Bonneau for AFP, 2010. Unesco: la Réunion entre au patrimoine mondial de l'Unesco [Video Online] Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoNpdSGKGTM [Accessed November 9]
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