The Tour du Valat, 60 years of history
The acquisition of the Tour du Valat
In 1947 Luc Hoffmann, Doctor of Biology and enthusiastic ornithologist, acquired the Tour du Valat estate.
Initial ornithological work
In 1954, following some years of ringing and studies of the populations and migrations of waterbirds, the Tour du Valat research centre was officially established.
From the very start, the Tour du Valat has joined with other partners to fulfil its mission of helping waterbirds and wetlands. Its premises host the headquarters of the Bureau International de Recherche sur les Oiseaux d'Eau - BIROE (now Wetlands International) and it carries out conservation activities throughout the Mediterranean.
Starting in the 1960's the Tour du Valat, under the guidance of Luc Hoffmann, instigated a number of international meetings to defend the function and values of wetlands. An initial conference in the Camargue, at Saintes-Maries de la Mer, outlined the principles of wetland preservation and was the precursor of the International Ramsar Convention on wetlands, that was signed in 1971.
The Tour du Valat has diversified its wetlands research beyond ornithology into other fields: management of wetlands by grazing and ecological requirements of colonial waterbirds.
A foundation working for wetlands
In 1974 the Tour du Valat became a private scientific foundation, directed to the public benefit. Luc Hoffmann allocated a capital sum (managed by the Fondation Pro Valat) whose revenue accounts for about 20% of the organisation's current budget.
An integrated multidisciplinary approach
During the 1980's new integrated programmes of research into vulnerable species and habitats were begun, drawing on new disciplines such as hydrology and geomatics. A management plan for the reserve was drawn up, the first for any Nature Reserve in France.
Communicating our skills and knowledge on the Mediterranean scale
During the 1990's, the Tour du Valat developed "conservation" projects promoting the transfer of the results from its research programmes. Training modules in wetland management were organised throughout the Mediterranean. From 1992 onwards, through the Medwet Initiative, (lien vers www.medwet.org) the Tour du Valat has been involved in the application of the principles of the Ramsar Convention (lien vers www.ramsar.org) and their adaptation in the Mediterranean sphere. The Tour du Valat has become one of the four Wetland Centres of the Medwet Initiative.
Reconciling human activities with preserving the natural heritage of wetlands
Today, socio-economic aspects are playing a more and more important part in our research programmes, and are contributing to the increasingly integrated nature of the roles of research and conservation. Several important projects are being developed in this way, with funding from national (FFEM), European (LIFE Third Countries, LIFE-Nature, SMAP) and international (FEM) bodies.
The Tour du Valat is also involved in providing support for drawing up public policies and for monitoring their implementation.
The MedWet Initiative
The MedWet initiative, piloted by the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee (MedWet/Com) under the auspices of the Ramsar Wetlands Convention (1971), is a long-term, collective and concerted action bringing together all the governments in the region, the Palestine Authority, the European Commission, the Ramsar Convention, the Barcelona and Berne Conventions and NGOs and international wetlands centres.
The Tour du Valat was one of the instigators of MedWet in the early 1990's and has played a dynamic role in this initiative ever since.
The Tour du Valat is a member of MedWet/Com and of the MedWet Scientific and Technical Team, and it has been involved in all the major MedWet projects, namely:
- MedWet 1: development of tools for inventory and monitoring, management, training and transfer, public awareness
- MedWet 2: application of the tools in five non EU countries
- MedWet 3: MedWet/Coast (conservation of wetland and coastal biodiversity in six Mediterranean countries).
- MedWet 4: creation of a delta network in closed seas
- MedWet/Regions: network and action programme for wetlands in Mediterranean regions
- MedWet/SUDOE: partial upgrading of MedWet inventory tools
- MedWet/CODDE: complete revision and upgrading of MedWet inventory and assessment system.
The problems commonly encountered in wetlands, the solutions proposed by the MedWet initiative, and the actions required for conserving the region's wetlands include the following activities:
- Improving our knowledge of wetlands ecology and functioning
- Understanding and assessing wetlands services and value
- Using wetlands resources in a sustainable manner
- Managing water resources in wetlands
- Maintaining and enhancing wetland biodiversity
- Implementing the integrated management of wetlands
- Developing and implementing national wetlands policies and strategies
- Strengthening national and international collaboration.