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Stuck behind vineyard posts? Uses and narratives around the black locust forests of a winemaking region in southwestern France.

Abstract : For the areas they cover and the environmental debates they fuel, wooded spaces dominated by Robinia pseudacacia have reached prominence in west-european landscapes. In line with other 'invasive alien species' - as it is officially defined in France- black Locust has been the subject of conflicting views about its origins, behaviour and impacts. Yet, in southwestern France, and more specifically in Gironde, it remains somehow at the crossroads. Neither fully 'exotic', nor 'invasive', nor a 'pest', it is valued by a noticeable share of foresters praising its durable wood. We wish here to offer a socio-historical perspective on black Locust forests in Gironde, in order to understand to what extent existing narratives may shape future representations and industrial uses. More specifically, we investigate the tree's relationship with material dynamics, political and economic practices, expectations associated with the Bordeaux winemaking industry. Hence, an underlying objective of the talk is to highlight the valuable insights a dialogue with social sciences can provide to apprehend non-native trees' management. Part of an ongoing interdisciplinary effort focussing on the trajectories of marginal broadleaf forests of southwestern France, our research relies on qualitative methods. We integrate archive analysis (grey and institutional literature), geographical data and interviews with various stakeholders (ie. managers, technical advisers, experts, owners and dwellers of the Sauternais-Bazadais regions). We demonstrate how intertwined social-ecological dynamics (from introduction, ancient uses, to current distribution patterns) are keys to an understanding of the determinants of the current attachments and territorial dynamics associated with Robinia forests. Largely present near Bordeaux since the early XVIIth century, the tree was promoted in the vicinity of winemaking domains. This strong 'appropriation by use' has transformed the local small-scale forestry until now, as black locust coppices harvested nowadays are mostly processed as vineyard posts. This relationship was yet not static, as it is in the ebbs and flows of the vineyard land use (phylloxera around 1880, overproduction later) that Robinia has been able to thrive. With stable prices, direct -and sometimes informal- sales and a simplified silviculture, the vineyard post local market appears as a natural choice for forest owners. We contend here that a lock-in effect may be at play in this setting, preventing the development of alternative uses advocated by proponents of the tree (fuelwood, quality lumber...). We end by discussing why the species remains marginalized in its representations and uses, despite institutional attempts to develop a devoted industry.
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Conference papers
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Contributor : Migration Irstea Publications <>
Submitted on : Saturday, May 16, 2020 - 6:59:05 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 3:31:57 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02610015, version 1
  • IRSTEA : PUB00063945



Z. Ginter, B. Hautdidier, J. Ferreira Seneca. Stuck behind vineyard posts? Uses and narratives around the black locust forests of a winemaking region in southwestern France.. Non-native trees for European forests. COST Action FP1403 NNEXT - International Conference, Sep 2018, Vienne, Austria. ⟨hal-02610015⟩



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