Hans von Sonntag | 08.05. 2024

Situated in the Rhône Delta, the Camargue is Europe’s largest river delta, covering over 930 square kilometres across the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Gard. Its distinctiveness is further highlighted by its recognition as a Ramsar site, “Wetland of International Importance”, on 1 December 1986. The Camargue’s terrain is a captivating blend of wetlands, salt flats, and marshes.

The Camargue’s rough landscape is rich in salt pans. Photo Hans von Sonntag


The area’s extensive wetland system serves as a natural buffer that mitigates flooding—an increasingly critical function in the face of climate warming, which is predicted to escalate the frequency of extreme weather events.

Christian Cau, Eco-guide and sales representative, Tour du Valat, invites the participants to a wine tasting at the Petit Saint Jean agroecological project. Both photos Hans von Sonntag


This year’s Eurosite Climate Buffers Study Tour, hosted by the Tour du Valat research institute from April 23 to 25 and funded by LIFE, spotlighted these crucial functions. Established by Luc Hoffmann in 1954, Tour du Valat has expanded its focus from the Camargue’s waterfowl to a broader mission to understand and manage Mediterranean Wetlands more effectively.

Laurine Pauly, head of mission at Conservatoire du Littoral, explains to the participants the idea behind the coastal renaturation and adaptation project at Petit Travers lido. On her right is Benjamin Pallard,
Head of the Natural Spaces and Agro-Environment Department at Pays de l’Or Agglomération, and Marc Thibault, project manager at Tour du Valat. Photo Hans von Sonntag


As Marc Thibault explains, this part of the beach has been a small road and is now an essential habitat for that part of the beach. He says the sea will take over at some point in the future. Photo Hans von Sonntag


The Camargue also plays a significant role in local economies through its agricultural and tourism sectors. It is known for its unique agricultural products, such as “red rice,” and traditional salt production. Although historically significant, the focus in some areas has shifted from salt production to enhancing natural ecosystem processes through restoration projects.

The tour’s participants enjoy the view of the former saltworks, which now function as a climate buffer to mitigate sea flood risks. Photo Hans von Sonntag


Moreover, the region’s cultural heritage is rich with traditions such as the ranching of Camargue bulls and horses, which are deeply integrated into the local culture and economy. Recreational activities like bird watching, horseback riding, and nature tours boost the local economy and emphasise the area’s ecological importance.

The Camargue can be a windy place at times. Photo Hans von Sonntag
Flamingos are the bird species that made the Camargue famous. Photo Hans von Sonntag


Despite its global recognition for biodiversity and natural climate buffers, the Camargue is not immune to the threats of climate warming. These challenges endanger the fragile ecosystems vital for the breeding, feeding, and refuge of numerous species, including flamingos and other migratory birds. This stark reality underscores the pressing need for immediate and intensified conservation efforts.

Eurosite Board members Melina Addix, Lander Wantens, and Eurosite President Tilmann Disselhof enjoy the warm sun at the Petit Traverse lido. Photo Hans von Sonntag


For more detailed information on Mediterranean wetlands conservation, please get in touch with us at info@eurosite.org.


Below is a view over Arles, whose territory encompasses the Camargue. The city’s old town is rich in Roman history. Photo Hans von Sonntag