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Stage 15: Laissac > Le Puy-en-Velay

The Haut Val d’Allier Natura 2000 site (FR8312002) includes the Gorges de l'Allier from the departmental boundary in the south to the Limagne in Brioude in the north. The vast perimeter of this Natura 2000 site includes a very wide range of environments that are favourable breeding and migratory areas for nearly 29 species of birds of Community interest.

The Haut Val d'Allier Natura 2000 site covers 58,906 ha around the Allier gorges between Rauret in the south and Vieille-Brioude in the north. It is divided into three distinct geological entities: the Devès volcanic plateau, the Margeride granite massif and the Livradois metamorphic foothills.

This geological diversity goes hand in hand with a great variability of reliefs and altitudes (450 - 1,286 m) linked to the many valleys, with varying depths, and tributaries of the Allier. Deep gorges with abrupt slopes are conducive to the abundance of rocky environments: cornices, cliffs and scree, as well as grasslands, moors and woodlands. On the plateaus, the cultivated areas alternate with the depths of the various valleys. This diversity of environments has made it possible for a very diversified avifauna to settle in, with birds of prey in particular reaching very high population densities. 

By size, this site is one of the largest terrestrial Natura 2000 sites in France for the protection of birds (called a Special Protection Area - SPA) and is one of the most frequented sites by birds of prey of Community interest, (Annex I of the Birds Directive: 10 of the 17 breeding species).

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    These birds of prey nest in the different environments present in this vast area:

    • on the cliffs: the peregrine falcon, Eurasian eagle owl
    • in the forests: the booted eagle, short-toed snake eagle, European honey buzzard, boreal owl
    • in hedges and small woodlands: red kite, black kite
    • in agricultural areas: the northern harrier, Montagu’s harrier.

    Some species have a strong presence, with some of the most significant densities of breeding pairs in France, such as the short-toed snake eagle.

    In order to preserve this diversity of species, the challenges mainly concern the conservation of the mosaic of open environments by agro-pastoral farming, to prevent either the intensification or the abandonment of the practices and forest management that favour the diversity of afforestation (hardwood and coniferous tree species).