© Sylvain Frappat / Grenoble City Council

In Grenoble, a new Observatory to help protect local biodiversity

I think

Published on 04/05/2022

While the disappearance of species is accelerating, the Scientific Council of Grenoble, European Green Capital, is organising a "Soil and Biodiversity" day on April 14th at the Grenoble Museum and is officially launching the Grenoble-Alpes Biodiversity Observatory. Interview with Professor François Pompanon, from the Alpine Ecology Laboratory of Grenoble-Alpes University.

From one report to the next, the world experts of the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keep warning of the accelerated disappearance of species. It is in this context that the Scientific Council of Grenoble, Green Capital of Europe, is organising a "Soil and Biodiversity" day on 14 April at the Grenoble Museum. Professor François Pompanon, from the Alpine Ecology Laboratory of the University of Grenoble-Alpes (which he directed from 2016 to 2020), will be at the helm. It will also be an opportunity for him to launch, with his colleague Stéphane Bec, a new Grenoble-Alpes Biodiversity Observatory, to which the inhabitants of the Grenoble metropolis are invited to contribute. He tells us more...

What does this new Grenoble-Alpes Biodiversity Observatory (OBIGA) consist of?

It is a participatory science project that aims to remind everyone how essential the preservation of biodiversity is to the survival of the human species. And that it is not just about fighting to preserve pandas and tigers. In Grenoble and the surrounding area, we have local species to safeguard, in an environment that is a priori very rich (with mountain ranges, wetlands, etc.).

This local biodiversity plays a very important role. Initially, we had the idea of creating this Observatory to involve our students in the collection and monitoring of biodiversity data on the Saint-Martin-d'Hères campus, which, with its 180 hectares, is the largest urban park in the Isère department. We also thought that we could take advantage of this to raise awareness among a wider public.

How do you propose to the population to participate in this data collection?
Through the smartphone applications Pl@ntNet and iNaturalist. They are easy to use and can be used to automatically identify species taken in photographs via a smartphone. Anyone who goes for a walk in the Grenoble metropolitan area (in a circle around Grenoble, and even in the foothills of the surrounding massifs - Chartreuse, Belledonne, Vercors) can send us the results of their collections.

These data will be centralised in the Grenoble-Alpes Biodiversity Observatory, which is managed by Grenoble Sciences of the Universe Observatory and the Alpine Ecology Laboratory at Grenoble-Alpes University. They will also be transmitted to national databases, contributing to research efforts on biodiversity, and may also serve as a support for training activities or be used for the management and development of areas (in particular the Saint Martin d'Hères university domain).

Do you hope to discover new species in this way?

No, no new species are discovered through this type of participatory action, as these applications only make it possible to locate previously identified species. However, it will be interesting to document the location of these species. Under the effect of climate change, we may see species arrive in certain places that were not there before (invasive exotic species such as Japanese knotweed, for example). We may also see species moving up in altitude.

Taking part in an inventory like this also means working for the future: collected over a long period of time, the data can be used to answer questions that arise later and can be analysed with new tools; they can also be used as a basis for predictions. And from that point of view, the larger the sample, the better. Hence our wish to see as many people as possible participate.

The inhabitants of the Grenoble area are invited to participate in this inventory from April to October, as part of Grenoble's European Green Capital year. But it won't stop there?
No. With the data collected, we will produce a citizen's atlas of biodiversity, which will be presented at the Grenoble Museum in October as part of an exhibition called "Our neighbours, the living". Once again, because it is necessary to raise awareness among the general public.

But the idea is for the Observatory to remain in place for 10 years or more. This will make it possible, for example, to examine the impact of developments on biodiversity, whether this impact is positive (e.g. if hedges are put back on the university campus, will this allow species to return to the site?) or negative (e.g. if an area is artificialised, with a building, which species are lost?) All this information can be used as research topics for our students; it can also be used as a basis for training activities for local authority staff and teachers in the academy, for example.

You often come back to the need to raise awareness among the general public...
Yes, the reports of the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimate that around 1 million animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction over the next few decades. These estimates are difficult to make, particularly because we do not know all the species alive. What is certain is that the rate at which they are disappearing is very rapid: it is 100 to 1000 times faster than during their natural renewal. For us humans, safeguarding biodiversity is a question of survival!

Take soil biodiversity, of which we still know only a tiny fraction. These species play an essential role in the functioning of the soil: they recycle organic matter, store carbon, fertilise the soil and are therefore important for agriculture, they play a role in water purification, etc. From fungi to bacteria, plants and insects, they represent more than a quarter of known animal and plant species (twice as many as in the oceans) and are very important to us. This is why we are devoting the whole morning of 14 April to them at the Museum of Grenoble, as part of our "Soils and Biodiversity" day.


On the programme of the "Soil and Biodiversity" day, on 14 April, in the auditorium of the Grenoble Museum:

9am: Launch of the Grenoble-Alpes Biodiversity Observatory by Francois Pompanon
Open to the general public and free of charge maximum 100 people

9.15am - 12pm: "Living Soils: Biodiversity is also under our feet!"
Open to the general public and free of charge maximum 100 people
Conference with, among others, Stéphane Bec, associate professor at the Alpine Ecology Laboratory, and Philippe Lebeaux, photographer and videographer, specialist for 15 years in soil biodiversity. Some of his works are presented from 5 to 29 April at the Museum of Grenoble. This is the exhibition "Les petites bêtes du sol".

14:00-16:30: "Objective of zero net soil artificialisation in the Grenoble metropolis: issues, tools and actions"
By invitation Workshop for elected officials, planners and researchers.

6.30 pm: "Gardening the city... yes, but how?"
Open to the general public and free maximum 100 people
Conference for the general public which will present examples and techniques to make a productive and fertile garden in the urban space. With Marie Arnould, editor-in-chief of the magazine "Les 4 Saisons" and Pascal Aspe, head gardener of the Ecological Centre Terre Vivante.
In connection with the exhibition "Jardiner la ville", to be seen at La Plateforme from 6 April to 25 June.

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