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The Pyrenees are changing. This is the third in a series of articles on the mountains in the 21st century.
The foothills of the Pyrenees are evolving, with pastures, no longer in use, being invaded by rhododendrons and gorse. It may well look pretty but it is a sign of decay. Higher up, decay is also evident.
When I first climbed up to the Brèche de Roland in August some fifteen years ago the path was covered in snow, but now much of it has been replaced by depressing grey scree. Photos of the Glacier de la Maladeta, the highest massif in the Pyrenees, are even more startling.
Fire is also reworking the landscape. In July 2012 one of the biggest fires in recent years saw an area of 130km2 go up in smoke near la Jonquera (Catalonia). The fingers of fire selectively thinned the forest, plucking out the pines but leaving the oak and olive trees to regenerate.
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