« In our district today, too much water is used for open spaces which have nothing to do with the historic roots of this region, so as a contrast ,the Mas de la Serre site, through its diversity, will show and demonstrate that nature has succeeded in adapting by using very little water. In this way, the arboretum project will play an important role in educating future generations in the use of water. »
Bordering the Côte Vermeille, in the commune of Banyuls-sur-Mer, the Albères range accommodates an absolutely exceptional biodiversity, teeming with more than 600 typical species of the Mediterranean seaboard.
This wealth extends seaward, beyond the town, in the Lacaze Duthiers subsea canyon, reaching a depth of 1,000 meters.
The Arago laboratory, a research center internationally renowned for the excellence of its research in the field of ocean science, has been studying this marine biodiversity for decades. Fifty years ago, it added a research and teaching hub on terrestrial ecosystems, including observation stations, a botanical garden and the nature reserve of the forest of Massane.
Investigating the impact of global warming
To enable the mass public and school children to enjoy this exceptional biodiversity, the Arago laboratory has undertaken to develop a three hectare botanical park, located at Mas de la Serre. On an area starting at sea level and rising to an altitude of 1,000 meters, visitors will discover the vast diversity of the local fauna and flora, and scientists will propose events for building awareness of the impact of global warming on the terrestrial and marine environments. The arboretum will begin not far from the Arago aquarium, so that the public can discover the wonders of land and sea in a single day.
The aid granted to Pierre and Marie Curie University by the Veolia foundation will serve to develop and safeguard the future park. A welcome area at the entrance, a conference area, and a space for the collections, will be constructed. As for the high point of the promenade, a public laboratory will offer a privileged observatory of various aspects of the local biodiversity, supervised by a staff of scientists. And outside the summer season, students will be welcomed to stay and pursue their studies in a natural paradise.
When it opens, the future arboretum will help create two full-time jobs and four seasonal jobs in the summer months. Twenty thousand persons, including school children, are expected in the very first year.