Trends in biodiversity in Mediterranean wetlands through the eyes of experts

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Several pressures related to land-use change, such as fragmentation, drainage or pollution, are currently threatening Europe’s wetlands [1]. This has resulted in 51% of wetland-related habitats having a poor conservation status [2]. Within Europe, the Mediterranean area is considered to be particularly vulnerable to the combined effects of land-use change, increasing pollution and declining biodiversity [3].

The Tour du Valat, in collaboration with Wetlands International – European Association, has been recently investigating how expert judgement can be used to reveal local biodiversity changes in the Camargue wetland. The project, carried out by researchers from the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory, responds to numerous requests from scientists and conservation practitioners to fill knowledge gaps in quantitative ecological data. For this purpose, an entirely new dataset based on expert knowledge has been created to document changes in biodiversity in the Camargue. This database, with observations spanning up to four decades, covers previously neglected taxa included in the computation of indices such as the Living Planet Index of Mediterranean wetlands [4] and the Living Region Index of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur [5].

During the first phases of the project, data were collected for different species groups in the Camargue wetland in a collaborative effort involving experts from different fields. Later on, the data were analyzed to determine how species trends, richness and abundance have changed in the Camargue over the last 40 years.

The methodology implemented in this research will provide more close-up diachronic information on historical ecological baselines [6], which may serve a purpose in monitoring the status and trends of biodiversity in other Mediterranean wetlands where quantitative long-term datasets for most taxonomic groups are meagre at best. Considering the many uncertainties and complexities associated with rapid social-ecological change, there is an urgent need to inform efforts to reverse current trends of biodiversity loss in Mediterranean wetlands.

Further information about this project can be found on the Tour du Valat website.

References:

[1] European Environment Agency 2008

[2] European Commission 2015

[3] Cramer, W. et al. 2008 – Nature Climate Change

[4] Galewski, T. et al. 2011 – Biological Conservation

[5] Galewski, T. and Dragonne, C. 2018 – Observatoire Régional de la Biodiversité Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

[6] Martin, T.G. et al. 2012 – Conservation Biology

This item is an update of a previous post to reflect the developments of the project.

Header image showing flamingos in the Camargue © JD Designs on Unsplash