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Fauna & floras
Saint-Barth surprises by the beauty and variety of its landscapes. The long beaches of fine white sand, the bays with infinite gradations of blue, the rocky cliffs in the colours of fire, the shaded savannas of lataniers, the salt water of which harmonizes with the colour of the sky...
St Barth is supplied with fresh water through a factory that desalinates seawater. Villas and hotels are all equipped with huge tanks in which rainwater is collected. Fresh water is therefore a precious commodity to be used reasonably.
The collectivity and the population are resolutely committed to preserve and manage their environment. Household waste is sorted before being burned, beaches are regularly cleaned and members of the nature reserve intervene in schools to raise awareness among children. Many associative initiatives also contribute to the protection of nature with the regular organization of land and underwater clean-ups. The hiking trails developed by the Community allow you to discover breathtaking views of the ocean and neighbouring islands, a varied and multicoloured tropical flora, iguanas and turtles around a bend....
A RESPONSIBLE ISLAND
Even before ecology became a key issue of the 21st century, St Barthélemy had implemented an island management system that integrated environmental conservation. With the creation of a marine reserve, the selective sorting of household waste before incineration, tanks under houses to collect rainwater, support for the use of renewable energies, the preservation of the salt works, actions considered as precursors to protect the island's ecosystems.
The Saint-Barths have never forgotten their past and still remember life "before", when the island had not yet become a top-of-the-range tourism destination. They then led a simple life, a diet made up of local products: sinned fish, vegetables and cultivated fruits, collecting salt from the salt works, bartering with neighbours and buying the basic necessities from Gustavia by schooner from Guadeloupe. Even if this life is over, the population has remained close to nature, firmly determined to protect the ecosystem of their island.
A favourite pastime of many locals, fishing, practiced in an artisanal way even by those who have made it their profession, allows them to eat bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and wild wahoo, all while preserving the species.
Created in October 1996, the St Barths Nature Reserve has made it possible to establish protected underwater areas all around the island. Fishing, gathering of living or dead organisms from the shore or seabed is prohibited throughout the reserve. Professional fishing is strictly regulated and subject to authorisation. Two enhanced protection zones (Petite Anse and between Marigot and Petit Cul-de-Sac) where it is strictly prohibited to fish, wet and scuba dive have been created in order to preserve breeding and development sites. Angling is permitted in simple protection zones from a boat that does not require anchoring. Water skiing and anchoring are prohibited and, by exception, anchoring is allowed in areas set up for this purpose. Dead bodies have been placed in the bays of Fourchue, Colombier and Petit Cul-de-Sac, boats are invited to moor there to avoid damaging the bottoms. At authorized diving sites, anchorages have also been installed on which professional vessels up to date with their fees can anchor.
The first island in the Caribbean to have introduced selective sorting of household waste since 1998, St-Barth burns its waste in a modern combustion furnace to European standards, the heat produced from which is recovered to contribute to the seawater desalination process, a modern technique unique in the West Indies. No waste is thrown into the water, all waste that is not incinerated is stored and then sent by barge to Europe for reprocessing in a specialised centre. Another green decision by the local authority was the vote at the last territorial council to equip public lighting with low-energy light bulbs. Finally, elected officials also adopted the creation of financial assistance for the installation of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels to encourage individuals to use more and more technical equipment and processes that save energy.
ZOOM ON THE FLORA
One of the characteristics of tropical flora is the diversity of its species.
Despite its small surface area, its dry tropical climate, long periods without rain, which sometimes extend into real droughts, the arid and rocky nature of its soils, Saint-Barthélemy is no exception to this rule.
The hundreds of wild species identified in a study of the island's natural vegetation testify to the richness and diversity of the local flora.
Environmental factors: topography, soil, salinity, wind, determine the distribution of native and naturalized wildlife species that have adapted to local climatic conditions and have organized to control drought (xerothypus plants).
The island's topography is very diverse. The "vegetal landscape" varies depending on whether you are by the sea, around ponds, on rocky slopes, at the bottom of valleys or on limestone plateaus and hills. Fatty and cactus plants are omnipresent throughout the island. There are no lush tropical forests in Saint-Barthélemy, but wooded formations with a forest profile.
Cyclones, although bringing their share of desolation and a temporary devastating effect on the landscape, favour the supply and dissemination of seeds. Plant healing is very rapid, some species are becoming rare while others are emerging or multiplying.
It does not appear that the plants of St Barths were studied before the Swedish occupation of the island in 1784, but it is likely that many species, often symbolizing the West Indies, were introduced to the islands after the arrival of the first settlers. The coconut tree is a perfect example, it was imported from the Pacific Islands by the English for commercial exploitation.
The commissioning of a seawater desalination plant a few years ago made a major contribution to the introduction of many tropical ornamental plants on the island, and pretty tropical gardens with very varied species bloom around the houses.
One year after being ravaged by the powerful cyclone, the island is recovering, thanks in particular to its economic strength and the solidarity of its inhabitants.
While life on the island has now resumed its course, no one has forgotten the trauma of September 6, 2017, when the eye of the hurricane swirled the paradise islet. A hurricane the size of France, above the 25 square kilometres of St. Barth. No human loss, but considerable material damage that had paralysed the island: gutted houses, devastated hotels, impassable roads, cut telephone networks...
One year after Irma, the island is very close to returning to normal. Thanks to the solidarity of the inhabitants, Saint-Barthélemy has recovered. "It was a sacred week," remembers Nils Dufau, president of the Saint-Barthélemy tourism committee, moved. "All the construction companies have put themselves at the service of the island, to help private individuals, on a voluntary basis. No one asked to be paid."
Nils Dufau gives the three keys to the rapid rebound: "First, the solidarity of the inhabitants. Secondly, the high construction standards, which have allowed some foundations to hold up well. Finally, the island's economic health, which allowed us to tap into our pool to invest in the work the next day. We did not have to wait for external help. Everything should be ready for Christmas," he says. In Saint-Barth, the high season starts in mid-November, with the Americans coming for Thanksgiving.