Auvergne’s volcanoes finally granted Unesco World Heritage status

The range of 80 dormant volcanoes in central France known as the Chaîne des Puys has (finally) been granted World Heritage status by Unesco. The chain of volcanoes becomes mainland France's first natural Heritage site.

Auvergne's volcanoes finally granted Unesco World Heritage status
Photo: AFP

The Chaîne des Puys, which includes as many as 80 dormant volcanoes, stretch over an area of 45 km in the northern Massif Central to the west of the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand.

Authorities in the region have long been trying to convince Unesco that they're worthy of World Heritage status and their pleas were finally heard on Monday.

The Unesco committee which met in Bahrain at the weekend have granted their wish, meaning the Chaîne des Puys and the 3,000 metre deep Limagne fault are officially France's 44th World Heritage site.

The range's highest point is the iconic lava dome of Puy de Dôme, which stands at 1,465 metres high and towers over Clermont-Ferrand and is located in the middle of the chain.

Since 2012 visitors have been able to take a train to the top of its peak.

According to the source of all knowledge Wikipedia, the last eruption of a volcano in the Chaîne des Puys was believed to be around 4040 BC so well over 6,000 years ago. However the volcanoes are officially classed as dormant, rather than extinct, which in theory means they could violently erupt at some point in the future.

“The site is an outstanding example of continental disruption – or rifting – which is one of the five main stages of plate tectonics,” said Unesco.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which recommended to Unesco that they grant the range Heritage status said the chain of domes and cones and craters “exceptionally illustrates the processes and characteristics of the continental break, a fundamental phenomenon in the history of the Earth.”

In the past, the IUCN had twice rejected France's application for World Heritage status to be granted to the Chaîne des Puys.

One of the reasons that held the candidature back was the human interference with the site, most notably the presence of a telecommunication antenna at the top of the Puy de Dome.

But Jean-Yves Gouttebel, the president of the Puy-de-Dôme departmental council told AFP that they had demonstrated the human interference had been vital for the protection of the site and without which the “volcanic forms would not be visible today”.

Remarkably the Chaîne des Puys is the first natural World Heritage site in mainland France.

While there are natural Heritage sites in Corsica, New Caledonia and the island of Reunion plus the Mont Perdu which is shared with Spain, mainland France, until now, did not have one of its own, despite the natural beauty all around the country.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons to visit the Auvergne region of France

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