The Canals of Paris
In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte decided to build the Ourcq, Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin canals to supply Paris with drinking water, transport goods – particularly firewood – and facilitate navigation by avoiding the twists and turns of the Seine. Today the canals are managed and maintained by the City of Paris: they are used for freight shipping and tourism. One of the City’s partners, the VNF (Voies Navigables de France - French Navigable Waterways) issues navigation bulletins (timetables, works) for all the canals. It manages 6,700 km (4,163 miles) of navigable waterways (operation, development, modernisation) in addition to the 130 km (80 miles) maintained by the City.
These canals joined to the Seine also act as an eco-corridor, a thoroughfare for wild fauna and flora. This blue network is a major asset that Paris is working to strengthen as part of the Biodiversity Action Plan.
Various plants with limited requirements – hawkweed oxtongue, matricaria, reseda and sisymbrium – take root and flourish in the crevices all along the Canal Saint-Denis. London rocket (Sisymbrium irio) bears small yellow flowers above the siliquae, long narrow seedpods almost 4 cm (1.57 inches) long. This oblong fruit, which is characteristic of the genus, expels its seeds at the slightest contact once it is dry. Wild mignonette (Reseda lutea), common in stony, pebbly places, sends out spikes of fragrant yellow flowers reminiscent of hay and honey. The presence of these wild plants encourages the return of indigenous wildlife. Ecological balances are being re-established in the urban environment. On the stalks of these wasteland plants in summer, the larvae of the black-and-red froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata) are sometimes hidden inside a frothy foam called cuckoo spit. This insect is related to the cicada, and is totally harmless except to the plants whose sap it feeds on.
It is not uncommon to observe the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) on the quays. This grey wading bird is a protected species which has adapted perfectly to the urban environment. With unflinching patience, it waits for its prey – fish, amphibians, small birds and micro-mammals – which it harpoons with its powerful beak before swallowing them whole.
The Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis and Ourcq canals now supply a part of the daily requirement of 200 million litres (53 gallons) of non-potable water needed for street cleaning and the sewer system. They also provide boats with a navigable waterway from one part of the Seine to another, avoiding 12 km (7.5 miles) of loops in the river. In total, these canals form a network of 130 km (80 miles) of waterways, maintained by the City of Paris, with 8 km (4.9 miles) crossing through the capital. They are a major route of circulation for biodiversity, now registered in the Regional Ecological Coherence Scheme. The Seine, the canals and all the artificial wet zones - lakes, ponds, fountains and ornamental ponds - constitute the Parisian blue network, a system conducive to the development of aquatic flora and fauna. This bolstering of biodiversity can only occur by means of a dynamic connection between different locations guaranteed by the Paris Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Seine, the canals and all the artificial wet zones - lakes, ponds, fountains and ornamental ponds - constitute the Parisian blue network: a system conducive to the development of aquatic flora and fauna, and strengthening biodiversity through a dynamic connection between different locations. So the Biodiversity Action Plan plans considers creating 40 new wet zones before 2020.
A new Biodiversity Plan is in the process of being developed to reinforce nature's place throughout the Parisian territory and reduce the carbon footprint of the city. Following an inventory of the biodiversity in Paris, liaising with its citizens and the committed territorial agents at the beginning of 2016 through local dialoguing workshops and contributions to a collaborative platform will bring forward the main themes which will constitute the City's new stategy for all living things.
A species is said to be protected for reasons of scientific interest or the need for biological conservation. Such species should not endure any action that threatens their equilibrium or environments. Hunting, poaching, transportation, handling, and sometimes even approaching or photographing all or part of the range of the species in question are all prohibited, at least temporarily unless a special authorisation has been delivered. The transportation and trade of the species concerned is prohibited in all forms (living or dead, eggs, larvae, by-products, meat, etc.). The sale of stuffed or naturalised animals of these species is generally prohibited; however, they may be made available to museums. Extinct species can therefore also be protected.