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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1575–1588 | Cite as

Assessment of the impacts of hydrological fluctuations and salt pans abandonment on Greater flamingos in the Camargue, South of France

  • Arnaud Béchet
  • Christophe Germain
  • Alain Sandoz
  • Graham J. M. Hirons
  • Rhys E. Green
  • John G. Walmsley
  • Alan R. Johnson
Original Paper

Abstract

Flamingos forage in both commercial salt pans and natural marshes and lagoons along the French Mediterranean coast. In order to assess the impact of changes in management of commercial salt pans and hydrological fluctuations on this flagship species, we evaluated the foraging areas of breeding flamingos using the resightings of 283 breeding flamingos marked with dye at the colony in 1987 and 1989, two years with contrasting hydrological conditions. Teams of observers searched all suitable habitats within 80 km of the colony during the four days following marking and recorded presence of off-duty flamingos. About one-third of the birds were found within 10 km of the colony, but some were seen up to 70 km away. About 24–54% of the birds were found in permanent brackish lagoons and 18–60% in the salt pans, the two most important habitats. In 1989, a dry year with lower water levels in the natural wetlands, the proportion of breeding flamingos using salt pans was twice as high [53%, range (47–60%)] as in 1987 [26%, range (18–29%)], this habitat thus acting as a refuge. Most of the feeding areas shown to be important for flamingos breeding in the Camargue are thus susceptible to variations according to rainfall and to transformations or drying out if the salt pans are abandoned. Our results provide essential benchmarks to reconsider the conservation of this flagship species when management of commercial salt pans changes.

Keywords

Buffer Dye Mark-recapture Global change Mediterranean Lagoon Waterbirds 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Alain Badstuber, Patrick Duncan, Jean-Claude Gleize, Heinz Hafner, Mark Linsley, Jean-Laurent Lucchesi, Domenica Manicacci, Bruno Pambour, Olivier Pineau, Jane Watson, Dianne Wilker and Lee Young for help with fieldwork. The company SALINS and Eric Coulet kindly granted access to the salt pans at Salin-de-Giraud and Aigues-Mortes, and the Reserve Natural de Camargue respectively. Patrick Duncan, Heinz Hafner and Chris M. Perrins commented on the manuscript and two anonymous referees also helped to improve the final version of it. A great thank to Roger Pradel and Lauriane Rouan who helped to develop the variance of the \( \pi_{i} \) presented in the appendix. Finally, we thank Luc Hoffmann for his continuous support to the Greater flamingo research program.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnaud Béchet
    • 1
  • Christophe Germain
    • 1
  • Alain Sandoz
    • 1
  • Graham J. M. Hirons
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rhys E. Green
    • 1
    • 3
  • John G. Walmsley
    • 1
    • 4
  • Alan R. Johnson
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  2. 2.The Royal Society for the Protection of BirdsUK HeadquartersSandy, BedfordshireUK
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.ArlesFrance
  5. 5.Ancienne PosteArlesFrance

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