The Jura Mountains - Unique Places In Europe

France's Lac de Chalain nestled amidst the surrounding Jura Mountains near the Swiss border.

5. Description

The mile-high Jura Mountains roughly follow the French-Swiss border to the north of the Alps. Its lakes and rivers supplies water to the Rhone and the Rhine watersheds of both Switzerland and France. Its massive height climbs vertically while it loses altitude laterally. Its mountain peaks dominate the area with Le Crêt de la Neig being the highest at 5,640 feet. The French Jura comprises the Franche-Comte area running northwest to southeast to the Rhone-Alpes zone. The Swiss Jura begins at the border in Basel-Landschaft, Solothurn, Jura, Bern, Neuchâtel, and Vaud. The Jura range continues on further into Germany connecting to the Swabian Jura and the Franconian Jura mountain ranges.

4. Historical Role

The French Jura mountain range was named after a Celtic term meaning "forest". It was originally attached to the Burgundy Franche-Comte region of France. The French Revolution saw the creation of the Jura department in 1790. In the 13th Century, the original people of southern Jura were of the Arpitan-speaking tribes whose language was the closest language to French. Although the Arpitan language has been declared as endangered it is being promoted to save it from extinction. The Swiss Jura mountain range did not have a historical role until as recent as 1979, when the Jura was formed into a Swiss canton and became Switzerland's youngest canton. By then its history was not devoid of historic monuments such as castles and mansions.

3. Modern Significance

Tourism and artisanal occupations dominate the region in the Jura range although there are commercial and administrative areas in most towns. There are also trade-based businesses such as sales, car repair, beauty salons, butcher shops, bakeries, and construction. Wineries and vineyards abound all over the region with most wines made from Poulsard, Chardonnay, Trousseau, and Savagnin grapes. Tourists can enjoy skiing and hiking. The Fort de Joux, an 11th Century castle, is also a popular summer destination for tourists. The Swiss Jura canton offers the tourist medieval festivals and horse races to enjoy while the feast of St. Martin affords culinary tastes.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

The French Jura mountain range enjoys a cool climate in its lower elevation while winter is extremely cold in the higher valleys. The Jura is dominated by mountain peaks, green rolling meadows and woodlands that are dotted with about 20 lakes among which, Lac de Chalain is the largest with a length of 1.87 miles and a width of 0.60 miles. The Swiss Jura mountain range has mountain peaks, plateaus, valleys, and lush meadows. The Lac de Joux however is the largest lake in the Swiss Jura range. Freiberger horses roam its high plateaus surrounded by fir trees that form part of its country charm and medieval ambiance. Orchards of fruits and cereal crops also dominate its flat lands.

1. Environmental Threats and Conservation

The Jura mountain range has woodlands and pastures that produces timber and fodder. Conservation groups have declared that the Jura biome has been found to be sensitive to land usage changes as well as to climate change. Since grasslands are the main source of fodder, wooded pastures were more sustainable in fodder production than open pastures which were more susceptible to droughts and climate warming. It was recommended that wooded pastures be the subject of conservation measures. Swiss Jura conservation also has proposed protection of the Lynx lynx since its reintroduction in the 1970s after its near extinction in early 19th Century. The recent reunification attempt between the Bern canton and the Jura canton in Switzerland has failed in a nationwide referendum in 1979. The vote was 72% against in the Bern canton while the Jura canton voted 77% in favor of the reunification.


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