The acquisition of the Tour du Valat
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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:
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: