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Field Session: Bébour-Bélouve – Old volcano and sponge forests

Wednesday 9 July – included in the conference programme

  • Departure from hotels: 7:00 (St. Denis), 6:30 (St. Gilles)
  • Return to hotels: 17:30
  • Creole lunch at Plaine des Palmistes, afterwards workshops on site
  • Please bring warm clothes, good shoes and rain jacket. Clean your shoes beforehand to avoid introducing non-native species to the National Park.

The mountain
Piton des Neiges (Snow Peak) is a massive 3,070 m (10,069 ft) volcano which emerged from the sea about two million years ago, signalling the birth of the island. Now deeply eroded and inactive, the volcano is surrounded by three huge crater valleys, the Cirques. The valleys possess a high number of endemic flowering plant species, and are included in the biological reserve on the lower slopes of the Piton des Neiges.

Water
The mountain acts like a wall and captures all the humidity carried by the easterly winds. It is commonly seen surrounded by mist and cloud up to about 2000m. Tropical depressions in summer often bring more precipitation and annually the Bébour plateau receives about 5 metres of rainfall: 3 metres on the Bélouve plateau, and 2 to 3 metres on the summit. This water infiltrates the region, giving rise to streams, rivers, and magnificent waterfalls.

The forests
The Bebour plateau is covered principally by primary forest, distinguishable by the emergence of tree ferns above the forest canopy. With twisted branches and trees covered in a multitude of epiphytes, the foliage gives the impression of being utterly impenetrable and rather phantom-like in foggy conditions.

Biodiversity
Thousands of indigenous species cover the geographical area of Bebour (6600 hectares), and their conservation statuses constitute a remarkable and unique natural collection.

The National Park
Established in 2007, it is the eighth national park in France and covers an area of 105477 hectares (more than 40% of the surface of the island). It protects the green heart of Reunion Island, and values the relationship between man and nature.