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Discovering the Lower Valleys

Thursday 14 March 2013, by Gilles Mourgaud, Julien Lusson

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Located near Angers, the Basses Vallées Angevines, including the Mayenne, Sarthe and the Loir(e??) valleys, comprises the largest set of confluences of the Loire basin. The whole complex occupies an area of about 7 000 hectares consisting mainly of flood plain grasslands and poplar cultivation, managed as a large hydraulic system. This is a natural flood expansion area, where floods can come from both upstream and downstream (Loire), and it can hold more than 200 million cubic meters.


Types of environments encountered on the Natura 2000 site "Basses Vallées Angevines”, along the river Mayenne and the Baumette meadows are:

  • open environments characterized by wet meadows in wetlands areas ;
  • freshwater environments characterized by slow rivers, ponds, ditches and streams ;
  • wooded environments characterized by dense thickets including ash, and riparian and other woodlands.


Biodiversity of the BVA

In terms of the current state of knowledge, the site hosts 41 species and 6 natural habitats of European interest.

The site is a reservoir of biodiversity for wildlife : birds, fish (spawning area), invertebrates, and flora (notable plant groups and several protected species). Located on a major flyway for migratory birds across Europe, the Basses Vallées Angevines are an important stopover for waterfowl (5 000 to 10 000 ducks from January to April, including the Pintail, Anas acuta (3 500) and waders (consistently more than 15.000 black-tailed Godwits, Limosa limosa) - but also for passerines (including the rare and threatened aquatic Warbler, Acrocephalus paludicola). The site also hosts one of the largest French breeding populations of the Whinchat, Saxicola rubetra (2.000 - 2.500 pairs) and also of the Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus (about 1.500 pairs). During the breeding season, grassland valleys are feeding and/or breeding areas for farmland birds, and they are significantly the main French breeding site for the Corncrake.

Play the Basses Vallées Angevines video :

De l’eau dans les vallées (français)
Situé au cœur de l’Anjou, les Basses Vallées Angevines présentent unerichesse biologique remarquables et des acteurs locaux (élus, agriculteurs,scientifiques et naturalistes) unis pour préserver ce patrimoineexceptionnel...

The Corncrake in the Basses Vallées Angevines

The Basses Vallées Angevines are today the last stronghold of the species in France, recording large and steady numbers. Whilst the last census (2008 and 2009) gave a population of around 550 calling males in France as a whole, the site alone hosts more than 250, i.e. more than 45 % of the French population. This is the only population that has remained fairly steady in France, even though today’s numbers remain below the average over the last thirty years (330 calling Corncrakes). Agri-environmental measures have been implemented since 1993.

Land uses in the BVA

The site is characterized by the dominance of the primary sector, agriculture. Farming activity is extensive in nature : there is grazing and hay meadow over 57 % of the site. Poplar is the second activity, strongly developed after 1980, over more than 15 % of the site. Crops are marginal and are located upstream or around the periphery of the site. Rivers account for a significant 9 %, given that during the annual period of flooding as much as 2/3 of the site can be found under water.

The majority of the site is privately owned. However, more than 500 ha are the property of local authorities. The Mayenne, Sarthe and Loir(e??) rivers are also in the public domain. Recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and other outdoor activities; and tourism (mainly affecting the rivers) are socio-economically important. Surfaces: SPA: 7.162 ha / pSCI: 9.189 ha.

BVA protection area

  • Surface : 9 210 ha
  • Special Protection Area (Europe): FR5210115
  • Special Area of ​​Conservation (Europe): FR5200630
  • Wetland of International Importance designated as Ramsar site (1995)
  • ZNIEFF : 3 Type II (large ecological preserved sets) and 7 ZNIEFF type I (presence of
  • high value species of flora and fauna)
  • Regulation of afforestation (Article L 126 of the Code Rural), banning the planting of poplars on areas over 3 500 ha.