Exceptional fossilization, unusual landscapes, exploitation of mineral resources: a territory project around geology…
Situated in the south of the France, in Provence, the Luberon Geopark covers a surface area of around 1,840 km²; this territory is inhabited by more than 156,000 people.
The Luberon area presents remarkable natural and cultural heritages that justified the creation of a Regional Nature Park in 1977. In 1987, a Geological Nature Reserve was created in its territory in order to protect an exceptional geological heritage.
Oligocene fossiliferous deposits are one of the major geological interests of this territory. Indeed, very thin platy limestones of lacustrine origins reveal a great variety of animal and plant fossils, which are perfectly well-preserved with extremely sharp details. Just like an opened book, each thin lamina has played the role of a photographic film and has preserved a part of a several million year-old environment. These superimposed plates have revealed an abundance of fish, leaves, insects, frogs, birds, tortoises… and even a small herbivore or a crocodile. Because of an excellent state of preservation, the thinnest details can be observed such as the compound eyes and silks of insects.
Other sites reveal fossil bones of primitive mammals (horses, elephants, gazelles, etc.) but also footprints of rhinoceros, hyenas, young goats and birds, preserved on the surface of limestone slabs...
The landscapes of the Luberon constitute an important element of the geodiversity of this region. One of the most remarkable is the ochre massif, protected area since 2002, which offers a landscape of cliffs and gullies, ranging in colour from dark red to gold yellow.
The grey marl hills around the town of Apt are another unusual landscape; they constitute a part of the Aptian stage stratotype described by Alcide d’Orbigny in 1840.
Great natural sites such as the Oppedette gorges and the Véroncle gorges also contribute to this diversity.
Finally, the exploitation of mineral resources (ochres, lignites, clays, limestones...) has deeply marked the region; this is attested by several ovens, quarries, factories, etc.
The managing structure of the Geopark is the Luberon Park. It is one of the 44 French regional nature Parks. It regroups 70 communes, which organize themselves around a concerted project of sustainable development, based on the protection and valorisation of its natural and cultural heritage.
With regards to geology, the projects of the Park concern the protection of deposits, research, the sensitizing of the general public and the valorisation of its geological heritage.
In this respect, on-site information panels were set-up, site-watching is organized and information leaflets are widely handed-out. Scientific studies and excavation works are regularly carried out in partnership with universities.
Geology is valorised through on-site trips, conferences, temporary exhibitions and also books aimed at the general public. As far as school children are concerned, free educational animations are offered to the Luberon school classes. The Park also takes part in the sensitizing and training of tourist operators, teachers, educators, in the field of geology.
Several exhibition facilities dealing with local geology and the exploitation of mineral resources were set-up in some villages of the Luberon.
Let us quote the permanent exhibition about local geological history at the Maison du Parc in Apt; municipal museums, dealing with palaeontology, prehistory (in Vachères) and exploitation of an old brown-coal mine (in St-Maime); the Aptian stratotype exhibition at the mill of Salignan (in Apt), the ochre conservatory in an old factory, etc.
New projects are currently being designed (equipments, publications, footpaths...) for a wider public. The stake is now to create a proper networking of these equipments and communication tools, resting on an enhanced partnership with tourism professionals.
France: Alpes de Haute-Provence and Vaucluse
Maison du Parc naturel régional du Luberon
60 place Jean-Jaurès
F-84404 Apt cedex
Tel. 0033 4 90 04 42 00
Fax. 0033 4 90 04 42 28