The Living Lab site Confluent is Regional Natural Reserve located south of city Toulouse, France. The reserve was created in 2015 and covers proximity 600 hectares along the rivers Garonne and Ariege. The reserve is stretching along these rivers, for a length of 20 km. The Living Lab is periodically flooded in a period of 5 to 15 years. The reserve includes the banks and riparian forests, the terrestrial and aquatic environments of the flood plain, as well as hillside and wooded valleys.
This site is the last meander of the Ariège river before the confluence with the river Garonne. After turbulent past and intensive exploitation, the arae includes mosaic of naturally restored environments. Result of this process is that the area become the refuge to many plant and animal species. For example, the area became emblematic due to presence of European Otter.
Living Lab with rich Biodiversity
The Living Lab site Confluent is a biodiversity rich area. It is a part of the ALFAwetlands project. Research confirmed presence more than 1 900 known species (with more than 900 animal species, 750 flower plant species and 250 moss, lichens and fungi species). Many of these species are rare and endangered. The Nature Reserve is a real reservoir of biodiversity at the gates of the Toulouse city!
The Reserve is a Natura 2000 site, and is recognize in France as a Natural area of ecological, fauna and florist interest. The area plays an essential role in this part of France. Besides many wetlands, the territory also participates in the improvement and preservation of water quality, the regulation of river flows and contributes to the proper functioning of the river corridor.
History of Reserve
The beds of the two rivers were before 1980 intensively exploited for gravel extractions. This usage had a strong impact particularly on riparian areas. After a few decades of exploitation the gravel extractions was abandoned. In the following years the old gravel pits become semi-wild wetlands. The area become important spot to monitor and research spontaneous rewilding processes.
The wetlands in the Living Lab are supplied either temporary or permanently by water from surface streams, floods or alluvial water tables. Forest in the area is gradually evolving towards natural alluvial forest. Floodplains along the both rivers and the multiple wetlands are now besides biodiversity conservation, source of many ecosystem services, such as water quality improvement, preservation or flood control.
A natural mosaic of landscapes
The spontaneous succession is a consequence of abandoning extractive use and results of the physical action of water and the supply of seeds by floods. Floods, erosions and deposits, are at the origin of a dynamic regularly creating pioneer environments. These elements are slowing down an inevitable evolution towards the forest.
Thus, many types of environments coexist in this territory. From the driest to the wettest. From the youngest to the most mature: e.g. gallery forests of white willow often accompanied by black poplar and ash, dry limestone grasslands hosting many orchids, etc. Research confirmed presence nearly fifty types of natural habitats. Some of them are rare at the local and national level.
A remarkable natural heritage
The mix of wooded land, wet meadows, cliffs and meanders offers a diversity of landscapes and a mosaic of natural habitats. These habitatts are places of food, shelter or reproduction for a large number of species.
Emblematic species have been observed here such as the eagle, the European Otter or even the Utricularia, a small carnivorous plant, and the Hispanic Lizard. Many other more ordinary species are also present and are an integral part of the territory identity.
This territory of the reserve is a very valuable place. It´s close location to the big city of Toulouse requires a strong protection and environmental awareness.