Post-Conference excursions

Lérins Islands: An exceptional and typical Mediterranean flora

Lérins Islands

The Lérins Islands (in French: les Îles de Lérins) are a group of four Mediterranean islands off the French Riviera, near Cannes. The two largest islands in this group are the Île Sainte-Marguerite and the île Saint-Honorat. The smaller Îlot Saint-Ferréol and Îlot de la Tradelière are uninhabited. The islands are first known to have been inhabited during Roman times.

Please download the official brochure of Lérins Islands (EN, FR, IT, DE)

The Île de Saint-Honorat bears the name of the founder of the monastery of Lérins, Saint Honoratus. It was founded around the year 410. It is in this monastery that Saint Porcarius lived and probably was killed during an invasion by Saracens. According to tradition, Saint Patrick, patron of Ireland, studied there in the fifth century. A fortified monastery was built between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. In 1047 the islands were raided by Muslim Andalusi pirates. The monastic community today lives in a monastery built during the nineteenth century.

Just a few minutes by boat from Cannes, the Île Sainte-Marguerite (2.5Km²) held a fortress where The Man in the Iron Mask was held captive for a time. The mysterious individual was believed to be of noble blood, but his identity has never been proven. In 1707 the Lérins were occupied by the English navy, under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovell. This was done in order to block the military port of Toulon to help the army of Victor Amadeus II Duke of Savoy and his cousin Eugene besiege that city. Sainte Marguerite Islands
The Sainte-Marguerite island offers an exceptional site, in a harmonious blend of nature, culture and leisure. The true natural richness of the Sainte-Marguerite Island will be admired along a botanical path with an exceptional Mediterranean flora. You will be captivated by the fragrance of pine and eucalyptus trees and the plenitude of flora on this island. The two islands vegetation is made of Aleppo pines and Holly oaks. The bush consists of lentisques, myrtles, filarias, together with olive-trees, white and pink cistus, honeysuckle, clematis. The forest of the Islands of Lérins shelters many animal species like the pheasant, the Montpellier Snake, the owl small duke, the Kestrel Falcon and the hedgehog...

A visit will be organized by the local Forest ranger (Office National des Forêts) along the botanical path. In addition, the scientific responsible of the experimental site O3HP (Oak Observatory) will present interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to study Mediterranean forest functioning under climate change to improve our understanding of the functioning of Mediterranean forests. Oak forest is one of three major species of importance in the region of the French Mediterranean.

More information can be found here

Grasse: The world's capital of perfume

City of Grasse

Around the Mediterranean basin, over the time period 2000-2010, the highest ozone mean concentration at the suburban sites were found at Grasse, where the non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions were increasing until 2007 because of the development of the perfumery and industrial chemical factories (Directive 96/61/CE).

Abundant flowers have made Grasse the International Capital of Perfumery. The city once proudly displayed its gardens, which shone both for their beauty and their fragrance, along with fields of jasmine, rose and tuberose flowers, the three key ingredients in the art of perfumery. As the centuries passed, Grasse's reputation increased, with many great perfume brands (Chanel and Dior).

Three major and famous perfumeries in Grasse

Galimard Perfumery (1747) provided the Royal Court and is the 2nd oldest perfume company in the world after Farina Gegenüber.

Molinard (1849), their perfume bottles were made of Baccarat crystal and Lalique glass.

The Fragonard Perfumery (1926), its museum Fragonard displays rare objects about the perfumery history covering 5,000 years. The historic perfume factory in the heart of the Old Town is one of the oldest in Grasse. In 1926 they took the name of Parfumerie Fragonard as a tribute to the famous painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. On a daily basis, they produce perfumes, cosmetics and soaps in a setting imbued with respect for tradition.

Perfume-making is a scientific art. An art mastered by the perfumer, who has a range of some 6,000 different smells in a "perfume organ", each with its own particular note and character. The "nose" has to combine and "marry" them in subtle harmonies, until it finds the perfect mix to enchant the sensibilities. It is a highly complex art.

Did you know, for example, that the fragrance contains nearly 600 different components, and required two years of research, trials and meticulous tests? The perfumer needs to take into account not only the scent and its tenacity, but also the degree of volatility of the various essences contained in its composition, and their reaction with the skin.

Perfume making techniques: distillation, absorption, extraction using volatile solvents, other Perfume making techniques. (Web page on perfume making techniques)

History perfume and Fragonard: Web page on History perfume and Fragonard Perfume Alambics

Flowers' fragrance diminished by air pollution - What are the consequences for perfume industry and biodiversity?

Unfortunately recently the flowers' fragrance has been seriously diminished by high air pollution with potentially significant consequences for the perfume industry. During the excursion the impacts of air pollution on secondary plant compounds and volatiles produced by plants which are used in the perfume (and cosmetics) industry will be discussed.

Scientists already knew that scent-bearing hydrocarbon molecules released by flowers can be destroyed when they come into contact with ozone and other pollutants. The chemical reactions alter the floral scents and contribute to production of compounds such as acetone, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Air pollution is destroying the fragrance of flowers and thereby inhibiting the ability of pollinating insects to follow scent trails to their source. This could partially explain why wild populations of some pollinators, particularly bees, are declining in several areas of the world.

Environmental sciences professor Jose D. Fuentes, at the University of Virginia, is working about these issues with graduate students Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal.