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Discovering the Moyenne vallée de la Charente

Thursday 14 March 2013, by Julien Lusson

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

The site covers the river valley of the Charente between Cognac and Saint-Savinien, and the valleys of its tributaries : the Seugne between Saintes and Pons, the Coran, the Bramerit, the Rochefollet…

Upstream, the site begins near Cognac, and downstream, the site ends at the dam at St Savinien. This dam, built in 1968, prevents salty sea water from rising; whereas before this, the influence of the Atlantic tides was felt right up to Cognac.

Between these two points, Cognac (Charente department) and Saint Savinien (Charente Maritime department), the Charente meanders through hayfields in wetlands, passing through the historic city of Saintes. Tributaries such as the Seugne, Coran, Bramerit, Sauzaies, Bourrut, Escambouille, Anglée etc. join their clear waters to it in the meantime ...

Biodiversity in the Moyenne vallée de la Charente

As of of the current state of knowledge (31-01-2010), the site hosts:

  • 45 species of European interest, including three priority species;
  • 1 priority plant species of European interest ;
  • 17 habitats of European interest, including 3 priority habitats.

The biological interest of the "Moyenne vallée de la Charente, Seugne et Coran" is varied : this floodplain holds several natural environments that have become rare as eco-systems and species habitats across the continent of Europe. The 17 habitats of Community interest cover a total area of ​​2493 ha of compact surfaces and 263 km of linear habitats.

Among these 17 habitats, there are three listed as priority under the Habitats Directive (the same as listed under current state of knowledge above), over a total area of ​​777 ha.

The living environments of the 45 endangered species cover about 4203 ha (corresponding to all natural or semi-natural sites), or 59% of the total area of the site.

The Corncrake in the Moyenne vallée de la Charente

The Corncrake is the bird species of Annex I of the Birds Directive for which the site was designated a Special Protection Area and, therefore, a Natura 2000 site.

The Natura 2000 site "Moyenne vallée de la Charente, Seugnes et Coran” is at the heart of the Val de Charente (Charente valley), which in its entirety once held the third largest population of Corncrakes in France. In 2009, a national survey reported a total of 15 calling males on this site, or 2.7% of the national population of 551. Statistics for the entire Val de Charente, this former "stronghold of the species", show a decrease from 180 individuals in 1975 to 127 in 1992, 94 in 1998, 33 in 2006 and finally 15 in 2009.

The decline of numbers in the Natura 2000 site "Moyenne vallée de la Charente, Seugne et Coran” has been dramatic : numbers have decreased from 57 singing males in 1996 to 12 in 2009, with a sharp decline of over 50 % between 2008 (26) and 2009. Today, this Natura 2000 site accounts for most of the Corncrake population in the Val de Charente. If the decline continues at the rate observed since 1980, Deceuninck & Précigout (2009) estimate that the species will disappear from the Val de Charente in a few years. "It is now only regarded as occasional breeding species in many areas of this large site which was one of its strongholds at the national level barely a dozen years ago”.

Evolution of Annual indices of the breeding Corncrake population in the Val de Charente (Charente-Maritime) between 1983 and 2009.

The complete data set from the study area is produced by extrapolating the missing data.

Land uses in the Moyenne vallée de la Charente

The site is characterized by the dominance of the primary sector, agriculture being the predominant activity (4387.4 ha, or 62% of the total area). Extensive forestry (exploitation of alluvial ash plantation for firewood) and poplar follows, representing 24.6% of the site. The rest of the site is made up of rivers and areas occupied by man (roads, ...).

Tourism and leisure activities constitute the second basis of socio-economic activity of the site. The virtual absence of the secondary sector (industry) is noteworthy, since only one distillery is present upstream of the perimeter, and two farms (St Césaire, Colombiers). The landscape is also very strongly influenced by agriculture, past and present. Traces of exploitation of water resources for energy are one of the major features of the site, in particular through the presence of many mills, now all economically obsolete.

Protection of the Moyenne vallée de la Charente

  • Surface: 7 087ha
  • Linear waterways: 227 km
  • Special Protection Area (Europe): FR541-2005
  • Special Area of ​​Conservation (Europe): FR5400-472