A tool to understand and guide the management of Mediterranean marshes


Contribution of rainfall vs. water management to Mediterranean wetland hydrology: Development of an interactive simulation tool to foster adaptation to climate variability.


Mediterranean wetlands are increasingly managed to maintain their functions and services following modification in water allocation, embankment and climate change, calling for proactive and adaptive water management. In a first step, we used long-term monitoring of water levels in 37 adjacent embanked marshes in the Camargue as a repeated non-controlled experiment to build a hydrological model. Without information on water input/output by marsh users, we could nevertheless estimate evapotranspiration under flooding and dry conditions, and soil water coefficient. The model provided a high predictive accuracy (adjusted R2 ¼ 0.73e0.83) of monthly water levels when applied to an independent sample of 12 marshes. In a second step, we developed an interactive decision-aid tool (http://mar-o-sel.net) that allows users to visualize the impact of their management strategy (desired water level at a specific month) on subsequent water levels, and their consequence on different components of the ecosystem over a 10-yr period.

Keywords: Decision-aid tool, Hydrology modelling, Mediterranean marsh, Mar-O-Sel, Phragmites australis, Water level monitoring, Wetland management.

Authors: Gaëtan Lefebvre, Christophe Germain, Brigitte Poulin

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The tool Mar-O-Sel

Mar-O-Sel is a simulation tool available online and developed by Tour du Valat to visualise management impact (water inputs or outputs) on the evolution of water and salinity level under different climatic conditions. Over a monthly time lapse, Mar-O-Sel calculates water volumes needed to achieve a desired water level. These water inputs and outputs, combined with precipitation and evapo-transpiration, have impacts on surface and ground water salinity, as well as on water levels of following months. Management choices can be simulated in an interactive way to evaluate the impacts over periods of up to ten years. Water level and salinity fluctuations being amongst the principal factors influencing marsh flora and fauna, Mar-O-Sel also allows visualisation of the impact of this management on submerged and emergent vegetation and on a few groups of marsh-nesting birds.

Visit the website here: http://mar-o-sel.net


Brigitte Poulin

Head of Ecosystem Department, Research Scientist at Tour du Valat


Photo credit S. Befeld