The effects of population change on the wetlands of Camargue
The River Rhone is situated in southern France, Europe. Where the river divides into many channels, this is called a delta. A delta is formed by deposited soil and water that has been eroded further upstream. The area around the marshy, wetland of the delta of Rhone is called Camargue.
The Camargue provides a habitat for many animals, including flamingos, herrings, bee-eaters, hoopers, and white horses.
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The beautiful woodlands, ponds, marshes, sansoires (salt plains), lagoons,
Vaccarï¿½s (water control system of the Delta), and wildlife make it a very popular area, both with the locals and the tourists.
Although part of the Camargue was made into a national reserve in 1927, most of it is still under threat.
Modern developments like these are still threatening the fragile environment:
* Industry – Salt extraction is one of the most popular industries in the Camargue, 11/2 million tons are extracted each year. The machinery and fumes are dangerous to the delicate ecosystem. The chemicals like sodium and chlorine are used in chemical and pharmaceutical products.
* Farming – embankments, pumping stations, and canals have been constructed, salty land has been sprayed with water to make it suitable for crops, and water has been drained from the wetland to the river. Nitrate fertilizers have also been used.
* Tourism – The beauty of the Camargue is admired throughout the world, but the increasing number of tourists and tourist-related activities is becoming harmful to the wildlife and environment. Although the National Reserve protects some parts of the Camargue, there are many areas still left unprotected.
The increase in population has caused a big effect on the ecosystem.
The biggest effect has been caused by tourism, as the people who come to see the beauty of the Camargue are actually destroying it. Their boats produce waves, which erode banks and nesting grounds, and the pollution from the diesel oil used to run them pollute the area. Wildlife habitats are destroyed, leaving the animals with no place to go and eventually they die.
Another problem is the farming on the land. The nitrate fertilizers they use starve the delta of oxygen, and this is extremely dangerous for its ecosystem. As a result of this, 9 species of wildlife have become extinct.
Drainage – the water that is taken from the delta causes the land to sink, very harmful to the plants, which depend on water to live. And the main focus of the beauty of the area is rooted in its water. The wildlife and plants depend on it for survival.
The climate of the Camargue
So what weather does this area get?
This graph shows the average temperature of Nice, a city near the Camargue. As we can see, the Camargue is hottest in July and August, and coldest in the winter months.
This graph shows the average rainfall in Nice. We can see that the Camargue receives the most rainfall in November, a month that also has a low temperature of 8 degrees Celsius.
From both graphs we can see that the Camargue has warm dry summers and cold wet winters.
So what can we do to solve this problem?
Some of the damage that has been caused cannot be reversed, but there are many ways to stop similar things happening in the future:
Encourage research into wetland ecosystems – this would be useful, as it would make people more aware of the problems that many wetlands across the world are suffering.
Train people in wetland management – someone who could maybe look after the wetland, control tourism, and protect the Camargue from further damage.
Work with neighbouring countries on schemes that cross national borders – Most wetlands are in the same position, schemes would not only help the Camargue, but other countries too.
Develop a national policy on wetland conservation – Tourism could be reduced, and wetland protection increased throughout the nation. Farming and industry could also be limited.
What’s been done already to protect the Camargue?
Since 1971, there has been a changed emphasis on protection and use of wetlands. The Ramsar Convention was formed and signed to help protect these areas. It is still the oldest conservation treaty. The biggest change however, was the national reserve:
Pictures: the obvious beauty of the Camargue needs protecting.
Formed in 1927, and again in 1970, the national reserve covers 13,117 ha of the Camargue. It ranges from the north of the Vaccarï¿½s lagoon to the sea, meaning that a lot of the area is in fact protected. The best solution could be to extend this area so it covers more land. However, this could prove expensive, and many businesses that depend on the Camargue (salt extraction, drainage, farming etc.) would lose a lot of money in the process, as they would no longer be able to use the natural resources to earn a living.
The Camargue is also home to people, so making more of it part of the national reserve could mean they have to move.
So what changes do people think should be made?
A local rice farmer: “I think we should make more use of the natural resources, by using newer fertilizers and machinery to produce a bigger and better crop. There are such good conditions here in the Camargue, especially for farming rice, it would be a shame to just leave them, when we could be making a lot of money for the area.”
Wetland Conservationist: “I definitely think that a larger area of the Camargue should become part of the national reserve. We have already saved a lot of the area by keeping it safe; all we have to do is expand the protected area. The machines from industry and farming are extremely dangerous to the delicate wetland ecosystem, so we have to protect what we can.”
Government: “A lot of money is earned from tourism and industry. If more of the land is made into a national reserve, less land will be available to tourists. As a result of this we will probably lose a lot of money. I understand that it can be damaging to the environment, but we could enforce new rules for tourists that mean less wildlife is damaged.”
From the opinions I have looked at, I think I agree with the local farmer slightly more because he lives in the Camargue environment and needs to make a living. I think maybe the government has the argument as they want to do what’s best for the whole country, but I’m not sure if I agree with them because they seem to be more interested in the money than protecting the area. The people who live in the Camargue will probably agree with the wetland conservationists as they’re trying to protect the people’s home.
The best solution to the problem would probably be a mixture of all the different viewpoints and ideas. I think expanding the national park is a good idea, but I understand that cutting the area off completely wouldn’t work because the government and industries need the money.