Behind the scenes of GS: Did you say “grey”?

Walking around the CERN site, what we tend to notice are the buildings, roads, and car parks. At first glance, any “green” seems to be in the minority. The reality is quite different, as developed land takes up only 40 of the almost 650 hectares made available to the Organization by its Host States.


1,300 trees in CERN's enclosed areas, 250 hectares of cultivated fields and meadows, 140 hectares of woodland, and three wetlands: CERN clearly deserves its “green” certification from the Swiss conservation foundation Nature et économie that it has held since 2009. "We maintain every site, but each site is different and has its own conservation criteria," says Mathieu Fontaine, head of Green Spaces in the Civil Engineering and Buildings section of the GS Department. At CERN, an external company takes care of the day-to-day upkeep, but more complex operations are often necessary. The various projects to fell diseased or damaged trees that have become dangerous for users are a good example. “The tree-felling project, which began in 2010 on the Meyrin site, will be completed in the autumn,” explains Fontaine. “The felled trees will then be replaced with new trees.”

While certain green spaces require a lot of maintenance, more and more hectares are being left to become meadows. “Meadows are real ecological niches,” says Fontaine. “These highly biodiverse places are perfect habitats and breeding grounds for insects, small mammals and amphibians. From this year, some plots on the Prévessin site have been changed from lawns into meadows. At the moment, enclosed meadows cover 40 hectares and 21 of those are home to sheep, which are great at cutting the grass!”

The wetland located near CERN's SM18.

CERN also has three wetlands: one in Cessy at point 5, one at point 6 and another just after SM18 on route de l’Europe. These places are basins of runoff water that are full of life! “Grass snakes, fish, frogs, insects and other creatures can be found there. These eco-systems are rich in plant and animal life,” explains Fontaine. “It’s a delicate balance, because if we don't maintain a wetland, trees begin to grow there and it gradually disappears."

CERN’s land and woodland are also an added bonus for its neighbouring communes. “In fact, the Green Spaces Service was recently invited to consider the feasibility of installing beehives on the Prévessin site by the beekeeping association Les Ruchers Ecoles du Pays de Gex,” explains Frédéric Magnin, Head of Civil Engineering and Buildings section. “We certainly aren’t lacking in space. The ideal solution would be for nature lovers and bee enthusiasts to set up a club.”

If you are tempted by the idea, don’t hesitate to contact Mathieu Fontaine.

by Antonella Del Rosso