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


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.


Buffer Dye Mark-recapture Global change Mediterranean Lagoon Waterbirds 



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.


  1. Amat JA, Rendón MA, Rendón-Martos M, Garrido A, Ramírez JM (2005) Ranging behaviour of greater flamingos during the breeding and post-breeding periods: linking connectivity to biological processes. Biol Conserv 125:183–192. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.02.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Béchet A, Johnson AR (2008) Anthropogenic and environmental determinants of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus breeding numbers and productivity in the Camargue (Rhone delta, southern France). Ibis 150:69–79Google Scholar
  3. Béchet A, Reed A, Plante N, Giroux JF, Gauthier G (2004) Estimating the size of the greater snow goose population. J Wildl Manag 68:639–649. doi: 10.2193/0022-541X(2004)068[0639:ETSOTG]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Britton RH, Johnson AR (1987) An ecological account of a Mediterranean salina: the Salin de Giraud, Camargue (S. France). Biol Conserv 42:185–230. doi: 10.1016/0006-3207(87)90133-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Britton RH, de Groot RE, Johnson AR (1986) The daily cycle of feeding activity of the greater Flamingo in relation to the dispersion of the prey Artemia. Wildfowl 37:151–155Google Scholar
  6. Brown LH, Kear J, Duplaix-Hall N (1975) Populations, ecology and the conservation of flamingos: East Africa. Poyser, Berkhampstead, pp 38–48Google Scholar
  7. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Cézilly F, Boy V, Green RE, Hirons GJM, Johnson AR (1995) Interannual variation in greater flamingo breeding success in relation to water levels. Ecology 76:20–26. doi: 10.2307/1940628 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chauvelon P, Tournoud MG, Sandoz A (2003) Integrated hydrological modelling of a managed coastal Mediterranean Wetland (Rhone Delta, France): initial calibration. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 7:123–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coulson JC, Porter JM (1985) Reproductive success of the Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla: the roele of clutch size, chicks growth rates and parental quality. Ibis 127:450–466. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1985.tb04841.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dean C (1992) Testing for overdispersion in Poisson and binomial regression models. J Am Stat Assoc 87:451–457. doi: 10.2307/2290276 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dean C, Lawless JF (1989) Tests for detecting overdispersion in Poisson regression models. J Am Stat Assoc 84:467–742. doi: 10.2307/2289931 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delany S, Scott D (2006) Waterbird population estimates. Wetland International, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  14. Dement’ev GP, Meklenburtsev RN, Sudilovskaya AM, Spangenberg EP (1951) Ptitsy Sovietskogo Soyuza 2. Sovetskaya Nauk, MoskvaGoogle Scholar
  15. Frederiksen M, Lebreton JD, Bregnballe T (2001) The interplay between culling and density-dependence in the great cormorant: a modelling approach. J Appl Ecol 38:617–627. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2664.2001.00620.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gauthier G, Giroux JF, Reed A, Béchet A, Bélanger L (2005) Interactions between land use, habitat use and population increase in greater snow geese: what are the consequences for natural wetlands? Glob Change Biol 11:856–868. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2005.00944.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glahn JF, Dixson PJ, Littauer GA, McCoy RB (1995) Food habits of double-crested cormorants wintering in the delta region of Mississipi. Colon Waterbirds 18:158–167. doi: 10.2307/1521536 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gottschalk T, Diekötter T, Ekschmitt K, Weinmann B, Kuhlmann F, Purtauf T, Dauber J, Wolters V (2007) Impact of agricultural subsidies on biodiversity at the landscape level. Landscape Ecol 22(5):643–656. doi: 10.1007/s10980-006-9060-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guzman JMS, Garcia AS, Amado CC, del Viejo AM (1999) Influence of farming activities in the Iberian Peninsula on the winter habitat use of common crane (Grus grus) in areas of its traditional migratory routes. Agric Ecosyst Environ 72:207–214. doi: 10.1016/S0167-8809(98)00180-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heurteaux P (1989) La dynamique de l’eau et du sel des etangs du systeme Vaccares, Parc Naturel Regional de CamargueGoogle Scholar
  21. Jenkin PM (1957) The filter feeding and food of flamingoes (Phoenicopteri). Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 240:410–493. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1957.0004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson AR (1983) Eco-ethologie du Flamant Rose (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus) en Camargue et dans l’ouest palearctique. Universite Paul Sabatier, ToulouseGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson AR (1997) Long term studies and conservation of Greater Flamingos in the Camargue and Mediterranean. Colon Waterbirds 20:306–315. doi: 10.2307/1521698 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson AR (2000) An overview of the Greater Flamingo ringing program in the Camargue (Southern France) and some aspects of the species breeding biology studied using marked individuals. Waterbirds 23:2–8. doi: 10.2307/1522140 Google Scholar
  25. Johnson AR, Cézilly F (2007) The greater flamingo. T & AD Poyser, London, UK Google Scholar
  26. Lemaire S, Tamisier A, Gagnier F (1987). Surface distribution et diversité des principaux milieux de Camargue. Leur evolution de 1942 à 1984. Revue Ecologie Terre et vie Suppl. 4Google Scholar
  27. Masero JA (2003) Assessing alternative anthropogenic habitats for conserving waterbirds: salinas as buffer areas against the impact of natural habitat loss for shorebirds. Biodivers Conserv 12:1157–1173. doi: 10.1023/A:1023021320448 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Paracuellos M, Castro H, Nevado JC, Ona JA, Matamala JJ, Garcia L, Salas G (2002) Repercussions of the abandonment of Mediterranean saltpans on waterbird communities. Waterbirds 25(4):492–498. doi: 10.1675/1524-4695(2002)025[0492:ROTAOM]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Poizat G, Rosecchi E, Chauvelon P, Contournet P, Crivelli AJ (2004) Long-term fish and macro-crustacean community variation in a Mediterranean lagoon. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 59:615–624. doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2003.11.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rendon-Martos M, Vargas JM, Rendon MA, Garrido A, Ramirez JM (2000) Nocturnal movements of breeding Greater flamingos in southern Spain. Waterbirds 23:9–19. doi: 10.2307/1522141 Google Scholar
  31. Rivest LP, Couturier S, Crepeau H (1998) Statistical methods for estimating caribou abundance using postcalving aggregations detected by radio telemetry. Biometrics 54:865–876. doi: 10.2307/2533841 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rooth J (1965) The flamingos on Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles). Habitat, diet, and reproduction of Phoenicopterus ruber ruber. Uitg. Natuurwet. Studkring Suriname 41:1–151Google Scholar
  33. Sadoul N, Walmsley J, Charpentier B (1998) Conservation of salinas. In: Skinner J, Crivelli AJ (eds) Salinas and nature conservation. Tour du Valat, ArlesGoogle Scholar
  34. Sánchez-Guzmán JM, Morán R, Masero JA, Corbacho C, Costillo E, Villegas A, Santiago-Quesada F (2007) Identifying new buffer areas for conserving waterbirds in the Mediterranean basin: the importance of the rice fields in Extremadura, Spain. Biodivers Conserv 16:3333–3344. doi: 10.1007/s10531-006-9018-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sutherland WJ, Anderson CW (1993) Predicting the distribution of individuals and the consequences of habitat loss: the role of prey depletion. J Theor Biol 160:223–230. doi: 10.1006/jtbi.1993.1015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tamisier A, Grillas P (1994) A Review of habitat changes in the Camargue—an assessment of the effects of the loss of biological diversity on the wintering Waterfowl community. Biol Conserv 70:39–47. doi: 10.1016/0006-3207(94)90297-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tourenq C, Bennetts RE, Kowalski H, Vialet E, Lucchesi JL, Kayser Y, Isenmann P (2001) Are ricefields a good alternative to natural marshes for waterbird communities in the Camargue, Southern France? Biol Conserv 100:335–343. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3207(01)00037-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Van Eerden MR (1990) The solution of goose damage in the Netherlands, with special reference to compensation scheme. Ibis 132:253–261. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1990.tb01043.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zweer G, de Jong F, Berkhoudt H, Vanden Berge JC (1995) Filter feeding in flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber). Condor 97:297–324. doi: 10.2307/1369017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations