Tour du Valat’s Multifaceted Approach to Protecting Mediterranean Wetlands
Tour du Valat is located in the Camargue region of France on grounds covering 2,700 hectares. Since the 1970s, this registered public-interest foundation and research institute has been working to protect Mediterranean wetlands and their biodiversity in this exceptional nature reserve. TotalEnergies’ French corporate foundation supports Tour du Valat’s work through its TotalEnergies Foundation program.
Between 1960 and 1990, Mediterranean wetland area halved in size under the pressures of urbanization, tourism, agriculture and industry on the one hand, and retreating coastlines caused by dams on the other. Climate change is also disrupting the water balance, leaving these ecosystems vulnerable. And yet these wetlands are home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. In addition, their ability to regulate water cycles (by storing water, replenishing groundwater and providing protection against floods) and capture carbon makes them a valuable resource in combating climate change.
Taking Action in the Field
The reed marshes so iconic of these coastal wetlands host a wide array of wildlife, including the Eurasian bittern. This long-beaked bird with black, brown and gold speckled plumage is an umbrella species, meaning that within its own territory a large number of other species are also protected. However, the Eurasian bittern population is falling in Europe.
With funding from the French corporate foundation, Tour du Valat is leading water restoration projects to improve water flow in four reed marshes, and assessing the water quality in eight other marshes in order to make them more habitable for mating Eurasian bitterns. At the same time, an initiative to monitor the reproduction of Eurasian bitterns is set to be trialed, using drones to avoid disturbing the birds and giving away the location of their ground nests to predators.
Influencing Public Policy
In addition, as part of its studies of the development and spatial dynamics of coastal wetlands in the Mediterranean Basin, Tour du Valat is modeling the impact of rising sea levels and its repercussions for water birds in 2050. It aims to present the findings of these investigations to policymakers and land managers to stem increasing human activity in coastal zones, reduce water abstraction, and establish new protected areas.
The French corporate foundation has supported Tour du Valat’s initiatives since 2007. As part of its commitment to Climate, Coastal Areas & Oceans, a new, two-year agreement has been signed to further contribute to protecting and restoring these ecosystems and developing and sharing knowledge.