The Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica

The Scandola Nature Reserve is located on the west coast of the French island of Corsica, within the Corsica Regional Park. The reserve was established in 1975. The park and reserve has been recognised by the United Nations as a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 because of its beauty, rich biodiversity, and maquis shrubland.

The Scàndula Nature Reserve (SNR), both terrestrial (919 ha) and marine
(664 ha) is considered the first European nature reserve to have a protected part on the sea and a part on land.

The marine part of the SNR includes a No-Take Zone (82 ha) where any form of fishing is prohibited, and a partial reserve, where artisanal fishing is authorised, under a number of constraints, while recreational fishing is banned.The SNR has been frequented by man since the Neolithic period, but never accomodate permanent human dwellings; it is now uninhabited.

Terrestrial ecosystems include forests and high maquis, low maquis, Cistus shrublands, low shrublands, more or less nitrophilic lawns, coastal rocks with halophilic vegetation, vegetation of inland rocks and cliffs, and other very localized plant communities. Fifty species of birds (46 % of the whole
of the Corsican avifauna, including the iconic osprey Pandion haliaetus), 8 species of bats, 12 species of amphibians (including Discoglossus sardus), 33 species of ants, 64 species of parasitic Hymenoptera, 56 species of Lepidoptera, 138 species of spiders, 710 species of vascular plants (a third of the floristic richness of Corsica) and 57 species of bryophytes (traditional name for any nonvascular seedless plant—namely, any of the mosses)
occur in the SNR.
Non-flying mammalians are all introduced species, while all native species were extirpated by humans shortly after they colonised Corsica, ~10 000 years ago. The small islands and islets are characterised by high degree of originality in the structure and functioning of the terrestrial communities and in their biodiversity.

Biodiversity and lessons from 46 years of management

Overall, the SNR has been an undeniable success. It owes this to nearly 50 years of uncompromising protection and efficient management, to the unsparing dedication of wardens and curators, to a symbiosis between management, agents and independent scientists and to a Scientific Council that was not just window-dressing. Among the most remarkable successes is the reconstitution of the osprey Pandion haliaetus population,
which was almost extinct in the early 1970s, and the coexistence of a profitable artisanal fishing industry with marine biodiversity sometimes close to the baseline. But these successes should not mask failures. The decree creating the reserve has not been updated; overcrowding by boats, in particular sightseeing boats, was neither anticipated nor limited, and is now out of control; the degradation of the Posidonia oceanica meadows
and the recent failure of ospreys to produce fledgings are other examples. The reserve is too small to be fully efficient and has not been enlarged; the Council of Europe, on the basis of the failure to respond to its long-standing requests, withdrew the European Diploma from the reserve in 2021.

The territory of the SNR is today among the best known in the Mediterranean. In addition, the SNR has constituted a sort of scientific hotbed: many major discoveries, now widely known and used, of great importance for management, originated in Scàndula.
Unfortunately, the success of the SNR, which has been iconic in the Mediterranean, could be jeopardised in the near future by uncontrolled frequentation which could destroy the very features which constitute the justification of the reserve and at the same time its attraction for tourists.