Centre Européen
de Recherche et d'Enseignement
des Géosciences de l'Environnement

Cécile Puigserver

Titre : DC-Doctorant
Équipe : TP-Terre et Planetes
Emplacement : Arbois-Pasteur
Information de contact
puigserver_AT_cerege.fr
Centre Européen de Recherche et d'enseignement des géosciences de l'environnement (CEREGE) -
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Cécile Puigserver est DC-Doctorant
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Geomorphological evolution of the southern part of the former Salt Works in Camargue: impact of the realignment strategy, and implications for flood risk. Coastal regions present some of the highest densities of population, assets and cultural heritage in the world and are developing/urbanizing more rapidly than inland regions (Day et al, 2019; Nicholls et al, 2019). They are also among the most productive and biodiverse environments with an important and often underappreciated Carbon storage potential (Owers et al, 2020). This narrow fringe, comprising both water and land components with a fuzzy boundary (Sanchez-Arcilla et al, 2016), is experiencing progressive degradation and escalating risks (e.g. Amores et al, 2020; Reguero et al, 2020), but with deep uncertainties (Kroeger et al 2017). Many existing efforts to reverse coastal degradation rely on rigid infrastructure and local ecosystem restoration (Ruangpan et al, 2020), with limited social/technical consensus (Jacob et al. 2018; Oppeneheimer et al. 2019) and a fragmented policy framework that favors short term interventions (Bayraktarov et al. 2016) leading to poor investment decisions. Increasing climate/human pressures and decreasing natural capital result in declining biodiversity and ecosystem services, leading to growing costs and a significant Carbon footprint to maintain coastal risk levels and welfare (Cohen-Schachan et al 2019; Baustian et al 2018; Sanchez-Arcilla et al 2019; Bayraktarov et al. 2020). These dire trends make coastal systems excellent candidates to explore and demonstrate the European Green Deal benefits through large-scale systemic restoration that will benefit biodiversity status and ecosystem services delivery for European coasts. Such restoration should be supported by a transformation in socio-economic governance/finance structures that recognize the full benefits of ecosystem services to reduce climate risks and provide a long-term commitment to adaptation through restoration in healthier coasts. In that context, the H2020 project REST-COAST (i.e. “Large scale RESToration of COASTal ecosystems through rivers to sea connectivity”) will demonstrate to what extent coastal restoration based on Nature-Based Solutions can provide a low Carbon solution to climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction for threatened low-lying coastal systems, combined with gains in their biodiversity status and the delivery of ecosystem services. This project will in particular consider 9 European vulnerable coastal Pilot Sites (deltas, estuaries, and lagoons) to investigate the efficiency of different Nature-Based Solutions for the restoration of coastal areas, their efficiency in disaster risk reduction, and their benefits in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Former Salt Works, located in the south-eastern part of the Rhone delta, is one of the 9 Pilot Sites considered in the REST-COAST project. This site has an area of about 6500 ha which was acquired by the French State (Conservatoire du Littoral) between 2008 and 2012. Until 2008, and for about 50 years, this site was devoted to industrial salt production, operated by a private company. Since its acquisition by the French State, a large-scale realignment strategy has been implemented: the sea-dikes protection of the former salt production site is no longer maintained, and the protection effort is now focused on a maintained dyke which is located about 6 km inland. This resulted in the creation of a 4600 ha “buffer” area between the former and the new dikes, which is in continuous evolution. In this buffer area, hydraulic works were carried out to create connections between the basins formerly used for the production of salt (creation of hydraulic works or canals, dredging, etc). These connections allow biological continuities between the Mediterranean Sea and the different compartments of this system. In addition, this area has been reconnected by several hydraulic structures to the central hydrosystem of the Rhône Delta, the Vaccarès hydrosystem, with an area of about 11000 ha. The non-maintenance of sea-dikes protection of the former salt production site in the southern part of the area induces a complex geomorphological dynamic, with the appearance of new connections with the sea, whether permanent or not, the creation of more or less permanent beaches through overwash phenomena, the appearance of vegetation in certain areas of these beaches, and overall a significant littoral dynamic with accretion and erosion zones. This complex geomorphological dynamic then leads to significant changes in the hydro-saline functioning of this coastal area, with direct consequences for flood risks (marine submersion, …), several ecosystem services (fishing, ...), and the biodiversity of the site.
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