France’s newest Ramsar sites
The government of France has designated a fascinating collection of eleven new Wetlands of International Importance. In addition to several lagoon systems along the northern and southern coasts, there are two additional lagoons along the beautiful east coast of Corsica. Perhaps most interestingly, there are also several new sites in France’s overseas territories, or outre-mer, including a coral reef system near Tahiti in French Polynesia, sites on Martinique and in French Guyana, and a 2.2 million hectare expanse of the southern Indian Ocean that includes the French sub-Antarctic archipelagos Crozet and Kerguelen and the Amsterdam and Saint-Paul islands. In addition, the new sites include the long-awaited “Impluvium d’Evian”, the plateau across Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) from the Ramsar Secretariat from which rainwater filters downward over twenty years to become the purified mineral waters of Evian-les-Bains, the lakeside spa centre and home of the Ramsar centre and botanical garden “Pré Curieux”. The Danone Group, owner of the Evian bottled water company, has generously supported the Ramsar Convention’s outreach efforts over the past ten years through the “Evian Initiative” and the “Ecoles de l’Eau” project.
France now has 36 Ramsar sites, covering an area of 3,315,695 hectares. Ramsar’s Assistant Advisor for Europe, Monica Zavagli, has prepared brief site descriptions for the Annotated Ramsar List.
Estuaire du fleuve Sinnamary. 15/09/08; Guyane Française; 28,400ha; 05°25’ N 053°05’W. The site, located in French Guyana coast, represents a combination of intertidal mudflats, active sand flats, mangroves, freshwater swamps and seasonally flooded areas that extend towards the delta of the Sinnamary river. It represents the preferred habitat for the aquatic mammal Trichechus manatus, athreatened species in the Caribbean region. It is an important area for migratory birds, and Calidris pusilla winters here with up to 1,000,000 individuals. The site also serves as nesting and foraging area for the Green Turtle (chelonian mydas) and hosts the spectacled and dwarf caiman. The mangroves play an important role in coast protection and spawning ground. The site also hosts an important archeological site “la roche Milot” from the pre-Columbian era. Although hunting is prohibited, illegal practices are observed in the site. Ramsar site no. 1828. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Etang de Palo. 15/09/08; Corse; 212 ha. 41°57’N 009°24’E. SPA, ZNIEFF (Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique). A very well preserved natural freshwater lagoon on the east coast of Corsica, temporarily connected with the sea through a seminatural narrow channel that gets timely opened to regulate the concentration of nutrients, thus avoiding eutrophication events. The lagoon is the fourth largest on the island; with its sandy beaches and surrounding vegetation, it constitutes an important ecosystem for its ecological, faunistic and floristic values. It hosts rare plant species such as Kosteletkya pentacarpos and supports five protected bat species, including Barbastella barbastellus, Miniopterus schreibersii, Myotis capaccinii,and Myotis emarginatus. The site has high hydrological value in helping the recharge of the aquifer, slowing down the water flow into the sea, and thus also reducing erosion phenomena. Agriculture and aquaculture are the main activities practiced in the surrounding area. Ramsar site no. 1829. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Etang des Salines. 15/09/08; Martinique; 207 ha; 14°25’N 060°50’W. A coastal lagoon in the south of Martinique located in the Lesser Antilles archipelago at the limit of the Saint Lucia Channel. The waters getting into the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea create special ecological characteristics which favor diversified and rich aquatic populations. The site is the last stop for many birds coming from North America before crossing the Saint Lucia Channel. Mangroves provide feeding ground for many invertebrates and other marine species. The area used to play an important role for the local livelihood thanks to its salt production and exploitation between the 18th and 20th centuries, hence the name of the lagoon. Beyond several threats related to pesticide and pollutants run-off, the tourism-related developments are becoming a problem in the area as the site includes one of the most popular beaches in Martinique with more than two million visitors a year. Ramsar site no. 1830. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Etang d’Urbino. 15/09/08; Corse; 790 ha ; 42°02’N 009°29 E. SPA, ZNIEFF (Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique). On the east coast of Corse, the second largest lagoon on Corsica with a maximum depth of 9m. The site is separated from the sea through a narrow strip of sand where Juniperus macrocarpa, J. phoenicea and Pinus pinaster dunes are found. The lagoon plays an important role for avifauna – it is a stop-over for many migratory birds on their route towards the south, and it is also habitat for many birds during the reproduction and breeding season. Inventories reveal the presence of 113 different bird species, of which 37 breed here. Netta rufina and Tadorna tadorna are two species no longer common on Corsica but that still find good conditions for reproduction here. Aphanius fasciatus is an endemic fish species typical of the northern part of the Mediterranean. Mismanagement of the aquaculture activities practiced within the site could lead to anoxia events and spell ecological disasters. Ramsar site no. 1831. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Etangs palavasiens. 15/09/08; Languedoc-Roussillon; 5,797 ha; 43°30’N 003°51’E. Natura 2000, Nature Reserve. A complex of seven main coastal brackish and saline lagoons typical of the Mediterranean biogeographic region, with dunes and sandy beaches that separate them from the sea. The site represents an important bird habitat during the migration period, in particular for the Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) and the White Stork (ciconia ciconia), but it is also an important breeding site for Little Tern (Sterna albifrons), with more than 80% of the French breeding population, and the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus). The high habitat diversity of the lagoons supports many Mediterranean amphibians, reptiles like Emys orbicularis, fishes such as Anguilla Anguilla and Atherina lagunae and the endemic and endangered insect species (Metrioptera fedtschenkoi azami and Gryllotalpa septemdecimchromosomica) In the site fishing and hunting are practiced, and it is also very popular for tourism and leisure activities. Ramsar site no. 1832. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Impluvium d’Evian. 15/09/08; Rhône-Alpes; 3,275 ha; 46°22’N 006°36’E. Natura 2000. Close to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) near the border with Switzerland, the site is located in the heart of a plateau where the popular mineral waters of Evian have their origin as rainwater is absorbed in the soil. During the infiltration process it is purified and redistributed underground, feeding the aquifer. The site is composed of seasonal and permanent freshwater marshes, forested and non-forested peatlands, rivers and streams. Although the site does not support an outstanding number of species, it provides an important habitat for invertebrates, in particular for two butterfly species Coenonynpha tullia and Boloria aquilonaris whose populations are in decline every where else in the region. Liparis loeserii, a very rare orchid, is still well represented in the site. Urban development and water abstraction are possible threats for the maintenance of the hydrological balance of the site. Ramsar site no. 1833. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Lagon de Moorea. 15/09/08; Polynésie française; 5,000 ha; 17°30’S 149°50W. A coral reef ecosystem developed in the tropical waters of Moorea island in the Archipel de la Société (Society Islands) west of Tahiti, also including beaches, permanent shallow marine waters, and saline lagoons. The coral reef system is one of the best known in the world – it provides habitat for many marine endangered species such as corals, sponges, mollusks, crustaceous, and is also spawning ground for fishes. A number of waterbirds such as Pseudobulweria rostrata, Puffinus pacificu and Puffinus bailloni regularly reproduce here. Many of the human activities on the island are linked to the resources and services provided by this ecosystem for tourism, pleasure, and construction. One of the main threats is the increasing urbanization of the coastal zone. Ramsar site no. 1834. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Le marais audomarois.15/09/08; Nord-Pas-de-Calais; 3,726 ha; 50°46’N 002°16’E. Natura 2000 SPA, Nature Reserve. A unique human-made place where cultural and natural heritage have been mixing together for the past 13 centuries. With its 56,000 inhabitants, the site is a green lung which supports high biodiversity within a very urbanized and densely populated area. Through canals (700km), draining channels, and hydraulic systems that allow water level control, people were able to cultivate and live in this area. The aquatic flora represents one-third of the French species and the site also supports different life history stages for 26 fish species. Amongst 13 bat species, the rarest bat of France, Myotis dasycneme, is regularly found here during the reproduction period. Ramsar site no. 1835. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Les étangs de Villepey. 15/09/08; Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur; 255 ha; 43°24’N 006°43’ E. Natura 2000 SPA, ZNIEFF (Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique). On the Côte d’Azur between the Camargue region and Italy, in a very urbanized area, one of the last remaining Mediterranean lagoons and its intertidal sand flats, shores, estuarine waters and dune systems. The site supports a number of rare, vulnerable and endangered flora and fauna species. Amongst the protected species are Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Anguilla Anguilla and Alosa fallax, populations of which are declining everywhere else.Potential factors that could impact the ecological character of the site adversely are extractive activities, run-off of pollutants from industrial activities, and urban development. Ramsar site no. 1836. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Réserve Naturelle Nationale des Terres Australes Françaises. 15/09/08; Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises; 2,270,000 ha; [43°07’S 063°51’E]. Nature Reserve. In the southern Indian Ocean, two sub-Antarctic archipelagos – Crozet and Kerguelen – and the subtropical islands of Amsterdam and Saint-Paul. The site includes a great variety of inland and marine coastal wetland types such as peatlands, marshes, and lakes but also rocky shores, estuaries and fjords. The islands are widely separated by open sea, and so the centre coordinate given above is purely notional. The Reserve supports many endemic species, amongst which Anas eatoni drygalski and Anas eatoni eatoni are also considered Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. The islands represent an important refuge and reproduction ground for millions of migratory birds. Many marine mammals such as the sea elephant (Mirounga leonina) and the Antarctic seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) are well represented here with a population of 130,000 individuals in Kerguelen and around 27,000 in Saint Paul and Amsterdam. The major threat is due to the introduction of non-native species like cats and rats that they are leading to the population decline of many bird species. Ramsar site no. 1837. Most recent RIS information: 2008.
Salins d’Hyères. 15/09/08; 900 ha; 43°05’N 006°11’E. Natura 2000 SPA; ZNIEFF (Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique). One of the largest Mediterranean coastal wetlands in France, constituted of two separate sites: Salin des Pesquiers and Vieux Salins. The area is of a great importance for many birds during their migration season, but also for breeding and wintering. It regularly supports 218 bird species, amongst them Grus grus, Lanius senator, Calandrella brachydactyla, and Hirundo daurisa. Exploited for salt from 1848 until 1995, the salins d’Hyères were acquired by the Conservatoire du littoral and represent a mosaic of different habitats very important in supporting a wide range of other fauna and flora species. These wetlands are the only site in continental France where Matthiola tricuspidata and Tamarix Africana can be found. The site is located in an urban area where the main economy is based on coastal tourism. Possible threats are the spreading of exotic species and algal bloom. Ramsar site no. 1838. Most recent RIS information: 2008.