The Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park (MPRNP), located in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, western France, has launched an action programme to promote poplar plantations. It includes planting 20,000 poplars during this winter (2022/2023).
Poplars have been present in the Poitevin marshes for nearly two centuries, but they have greatly diminished in the last decades. There were 800,000 poplars in the 1950s, but now there are less than 200,000.
The action programme developed by the MPRNP–DEFI project (Development of the poplar sector): a strategy for the sustainable development of poplar while preserving the landscapes and biodiversity of the Marais Poitevin–, states that the decline of poplar trees in the region has occurred “despite constant demand”, and “is the result of a very insufficient planting/replanting rate compared to the harvest”.
Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park
The MPRNP strives to safeguard, restore, and enhance the Marais Poitevin, whilst encompassing sustainable development. The Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Park covers 204,822 hectares and 280,765 inhabitants, spread over 92 municipalities.
Currently, In the Marais Poitevin, poplar is found in two forms of cultivation:
- In alignment, generally on the outskirts of a plot. It is a model of traditional culture, of the agroforestry type. Poplar is generally associated with agricultural production, grassland, and cereal crops.
- In poplar plantations. This culture is more recent. Its rise observed from the 1990s and is linked to an agricultural abandonment of wet marshes.
The DEFI project is a joint action that gathers The Caisse des dépôts et consignations forestry company, the CNPF – National Center for Forest Property, the Joubert Valter Peupliers company and the Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park. It followed an AMI from the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry launched in 2019.:
The project’s objectives
The project’s main objective is 300,000 poplars by 2025, i.e. a planting target of approximately 100,000 trees in three to four years. This has not been reached yet, but 11,000 trees have already been planted during the first season of the 2021/2022 project; 8,000 trees have already been planted during the 2022/2023 season.
The project is structured around five working groups, each covering one of the five project objectives:
- Formalisation of an incentive planting aid system (operational);
- Improvement of the service system (ongoing);
- Establishment of a Populicultural Charter (operational);
- Strengthen the dynamics through training: silvicultural itinerary to obtain quality poplars (in progress);
- Valorisation: confirming the assets and the biological and agroforestry interest of the poplar.
The Park has, in parallel signed an agreement with the Coopérative Carbone de la Rochelle (with the contribution of the Banque des Territoires and the Groupe Caisse des Dépôts & Consignations) for the evaluation of carbon assessments.
According to the Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park, there are three key reasons to plant poplar:
Poplars are a fundamental part of the region’s landscape.
Poplars and pollard ash trees are the main elements of the raised treeline of the wet marshes. Faced with ash dieback and alder Phytophthora (two diseases impacting these species), the planting of poplars on the outskirts of the plot contributes to the maintenance of a weakened bocage landscape and to the identity of this territory.
Poplar contributes to the local economy.
Poplar growing is a profitable crop for owners. And planting poplar in the Marais Poitevin means ensuring the future supply of raw materials for local industries. Most of the poplar harvested in the Marais Poitevin is processed within a close radius and is used to manufacture plywood, food packaging, crates, pallets, and building materials. It is also used for energy purposes…
Poplar cultivation, with its rapid growth rate, allows for intense carbon sequestration. It helps to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate. Moreover, the diversity of cultivars available allows a global response that is favourable both to maintaining a high level of biodiversity and to efficient adaptation to the consequences of climate change.