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The restoration of the former saltworks in the Camargue

Adaptive restoration of former saltworks can help wetlands recover their functionality and resilience to adapt to sea-level rise, while improving the biodiversity habitat.
Jens Grundler
Saline ponds and swamps in the Camargue – a changing territory (video available in French)

The former Saltworks restoration project: a Nature-based Solution to adapt to sea-level rise

The former saltworks restoration project is an example of how humans can help reverse a disturbance through adaptive restoration until nature can regain its functionality and restore its resilience. In this case, reconnecting water bodies leads to the eventual reshaping of water paths in a natural way (e.g. after a few storms). Newly emerged soils and restored waterways produce “new” homes for vegetation, fish, birds and other wildlife populations. Fish migration is progressively restored. Abandonment of the sea-dike along the coastline leads to the restoration of sediment transfer, contributing to the restoration of natural sandy coastlines. Wetland reconnection and restoration considerably improve water spreading, thus mitigating the effects of sea surges. These coastal ecosystems become more resilient to better face the impacts of climate change.

From the economic point of view, the management strategy offers a less expensive option, with no cost related to coastal defense infrastructure construction along the coastline. Information from the Symadrem (Interregional Joint Union for the Development of Dikes in the Rhone Delta and the Sea) confirms that the restoration and maintenance of the seafront dike (including breakwaters and groins) would be much more expensive than the one inland.

The benefits of the restoration project for the society include:

  • Enhanced flood protection further inland (creating a buffer zone),
  • Development of fish nurseries (through increasing connectivity of water bodies and reducing salinity),
  • New opportunities to improve scientific knowledge (research on coastal dynamics and biodiversity, and strategies to adapt to sea level rise),
  • Increased prospects for environmental education (school and information visits), and
  • Additional recreational activities (cycling, hiking, horse riding, etc.) both for locals and tourists.

Main contact: Marc Thibault (Tour du Valat)

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