France, by its geographical position in Europe and overseas, has a very rich natural and cultural heritage: it is a mega-diverse country.
Departments, territories and communities overseas are present in many latitudes: Mascareignes, Guyana plateau, Caribbean, South Pacific, southern and Antarctic islands, North American boreal environment. In continental Europe, France is at a crossroads of biogeographic influences and covers 4 of the 11 biogeographic regions (Atlantic, Alpine, continental and Mediterranean). France is thus located in 5 of the 34 hotspots of global terrestrial biodiversity recognized by WWF and IUCN and 4 of these hotspots are located overseas.
The French maritime space covers more than 11 million square kilometers: it is the second largest in the world. All these elements give the country a strong responsibility in terms of biodiversity.
A great diversity of environments and species
This diversity of territories and biogeoclimatic influences translates into a diversity of very diverse ecosystems and landscapes. Some are particularly emblematic, rare or endangered, and require special attention: this is the case with mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, wetlands, certain agro-pastoral environments, cave environments, etc.
Within these ecosystems, France has a rich and diversified fauna and flora, in mainland France and overseas. The national inventory of natural heritage lists in metropolitan France several tens of thousands of plant and animal species. In overseas France, despite still very incomplete knowledge, the inventories show a much greater specific diversity than in mainland France. There are, for example, 50 times more endemic plants there. The genetic heritage of the species present in France is also still poorly understood, except for the breeds of breeding and the cultivated or planted varieties, including old ones. Its diversity is however the condition for the adaptability of species in a changing environmental context and constitutes an essential component of biodiversity.
Biodiversity at the foundation of our society
Biodiversity, whether genetic, specific, ecosystem and landscape, animal, plant or microbial, is one of the foundations of a diversity of cultures in France.
The traditional knowledge of the French populations is partly linked to their knowledge of biodiversity, in mainland France and overseas, from food to medicine, including clothing and the construction or development of skills and practices agricultural and livestock. Indeed, biodiversity is the direct or indirect support of a very large number of human activities and benefits from which we take advantage. Agricultural activities, for example, require living soil, produced by the activity of microorganisms. They are also based on the diversity of animal and plant genetic resources, which must not only be preserved but also managed dynamically to provide varieties adapted to the diversity of farmers of tomorrow.
The exploratory study for an assessment of ecosystem services in France identified 43 ecosystem services among three categories: supply services, cultivated fruits and vegetables, wood for construction or energy, fish resources, medicinal resources, drinking water, etc.; regulatory services, prevention of avalanches by certain forests, regulation of river floods, mitigation of climatic variations, biological aids to crops, etc. ; cultural and aesthetic services, landscapes for leisure, cultural or spiritual value of certain natural environments, etc. The same ecosystem provides different services depending on how it is managed: all ecosystem services cannot be produced at the same time, in the same place and compromises must be found.