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Camargue is a major world heritage wetland and is host to many fragile ecosystems

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Introduction

Camargue is a major world heritage wetland and is host to many fragile ecosystems. The exceptional biological diversity is the result of water and salt in an "amphibious" land inhabited by numerous species. Location: France, Region : Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur ; Department : Bouches du Rh�ne ; 2 municipalities. Size: 86 300 ha. Nature & Landscape Woodlands They are a minute part of Camargue but they play a major role in the overall balance of nature. Some are along the Rhone, others are on former sand dunes south of Vaccar�s (like the Ri�ges woods in the national wildlife preserve). The forest hosts many mammals (rodents, foxes, and boars) and insects eaten by nesting birds (little egrets and night herons). The sansouires The low-lying salt plains, which dry out and crack in summer, are carpeted with glasswort that the wild bulls and horses love to graze. Submerged in winter, by spring they provide wetlands for marsh birds (godwits, sandpipers, black-winged stilts, etc.). The glassworts and salt crystals used to be incinerated to yield soda for soap making and glassmaking, but by the end of the 19th century, the plant soda was replaced by industrial soda made from salt. Ponds and marshes They cover a large proportion of the river delta. ...read more.

Middle

There are wild herds of white Arabian horses, as well as birds such as flamingos, egrets, and ibises, resident in the Grande Camargue and the smaller adjoining Petite Camargue. In total, the Camargue regional park covers some 82,000 hectares (20,265 acres). Many of its lagoons, such as the �tang de Vaccar�s, are also nature reserves. The Camargue's restored cathedral of Maguelone stands by the sea, and the Camargue is a centre of pilgrimage, reputedly the site (Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer) where Mary Magdalene and others landed after escaping persecution in the Holy Land (see Palestine). Tourism is economically important to the Camargue, as is small-scale agriculture, grazing livestock (including black bulls for fighting) on the delta lands, fishing, and cultivating rice, grapes and wheat. Rice yields are not particularly high because of the high salinity of the land, despite great encouragement from the government towards local rice production after World War II. Salt is extracted from the marshy soils in the south-east of the region. Tourism What were the problems? The culture and environment which makes the Camargue unique draws huge numbers of tourists each year. However this influx threatens the area's fragile ecological balance. The 140,000 ha of wetlands that comprise the Camargue provide a home for a unique collection of flora, including Tamarisk and Narcissi. ...read more.

Conclusion

Farming is becoming more intensive and, as the area farmed increases, so does the amount of irrigation. This is causing problems. So much fresh water is used in farming and industry that it's necessary to take steps to maintain the ecological balance between fresh and salt water. This balance is vital for preserving the plant and animal diversity that makes the Camargue so special. This is a crucial time for the Camargue. 50% of its natural wetlands have disappeared in the past fifty years. If the area is to survive, steps will have to be taken to halt this loss. Consequences Draining of the land means the loss of natural plant life, such as reeds, and this then affects wildlife which depends on the reeds for their habitat. Farmers use more and more fertilisers to compensate for the loss of fertility. These fertilisers are washed into the soil and find their way into the rivers or wetlands. Pesticides used on farmland can build up in the water and kill off aquatic life. Pollution from farming ruins the salt pans. solutions The Camargue Regional Park was set up in 1972 to oversee and manage environmental pressures. There is funding from the EU to support developments to protect the environment. Within the Camargue there is zoning of various activities such as agriculture, industry, tourism and nature reserves. Housing and farming are forbidden in sensitive areas like the flamingo breeding grounds. ...read more.

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