A popular vacation destination in western France is le Marais Poitevin. This marshland attracts 650,000 visitors each year. There are 379 square miles to explore with three distinct parts: to the west, there’s an estuary that shelters thousands of migratory birds; near the ocean, there are protected waters; and the third area is composed of prairie.
But the most beautiful area is located between Maillé and Niort, known as la Venise verte (lah veneez vairt), or Green Venice. The name comes from the network of canals covered in duckweed. There are several locations from which you can rent row boats or flat bottomed punts. You can explore the waterways to your heart’s content with a guide or a map.
The balance between nature and man is delicate: overfishing has endangered many species. Other non-native species have arrived, such as Louisiana shrimps, to the detriment of local fauna. Mind you, the storks love the Cajun newcomers and have come back to the marsh. Civelle, or tiny baby eels, travel about 3,700 miles from the Sargasso Sea to the Marais Poitevin to grow to adulthood, one of nature’s mysteries.
The civelle aren’t happy, however, with a plant that belonged in an aquarium but showed up in the marsh 20 years ago, la jussie, a pretty plant with a yellow flower. These days, it has to be ripped out by hand by the ton. Not only does it choke off the waterways, it consumes the oxygen the fish need. It costs the state 220,000 Euros each year to deal with the invasive plant.
- Week 5: Nature Awareness (themooncard.wordpress.com)
- marsh MAS (audreymcropp.com)
- Climate change threatens migratory birds and bird-dependent economy, NWF warns (vtdigger.org)