Living lab site – the Nature Reserve Confluent

ALFAwetlands Living lab France consists of several sites, one of them is Living Lab site Toulouse or Confluent.


Small man-managed wetlands are scattered throughout the picturesque landscape of France. These wet areas contribute to the country’s natural beauty and ecological diversity. These wetlands, serve as vital habitats for a wide spectrum of flora and fauna.

From marshes and ponds to swamps and fens, these wetlands provide shelter, food, and breeding grounds for various species, including birds, amphibians, and insects. Additionally, they play a crucial role in water purification, flood control, and carbon sequestration, contributing to the overall health of the environment.

These small pockets of wetlands exemplify the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. They are showcasing France’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage.

Living lab site Confluent

The wetland – Confluent Regional Nature Reserve is a France Living lab site, one member of the Europe wide network of wetlands involved in the ALFAWetland project.

This area is located south of city Toulouse, France. The Reserve was created in 2015 and covers proximity 600 hectares along the rivers Garonne and Ariege, for a length of 20 km. Floods are happening in the area every 5-15 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 area includes mosaic of naturally restored environments.

Result of this process is that the area become the refuge of many plant and animal species. It became emblematic due to presence of rare European Otter.

Biodiversity rich area

This is a biodiversity rich area. Research confirmed the presence more than 1900 known species (with more than 900 animal species, 750 flower plant species and 250 moss, lichens and fungi). 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. This wetland also participates in the improvement and preservation of water quality. Further on it contributes to the regulation of river flows and the proper functioning of the river corridor.

History of the Reserve

Before 1980 the beds of two rivers were intensively exploited for gravel extractions. This usage had a strong impact particularly on riparian areas. After a few decades of exploitation, the old gravel pits spontaneously turned into semiwild wetland. The area became important spot to monitor and research spontaneous rewilding processes.

The wetlands in Reserve 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 besides biodiversity conservation are also the 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, erosion and sedimentation are the originator of the dynamics that repeatedly creates the pioneering environment. This process slows down the inevitable development 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: gallery forests of white willow often accompanied by black poplar and ash, dry limestone grasslands hosting many orchids, etc. Research confirmed the presence nearly fifty types natural environments. Some of which are rare at local and national level.


The alternation of wooded landscape, wet meadows, cliffs and areas covered with agricultural crops offers a diversity of landscapes and a mosaic of natural habitats.

Important part of the ConfluentLiving lab site are emblematic species. Since gradual rewilding species such as the eagle, otter or even the Utricularia, a small carnivorous plant has been observed here. Even Hispanic Lizard become more common here. Many other more ordinary species are also present and become an integral part of the identity of this interesting territory.

ALFAwetlands partner, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), who contributed to this post information provision, are conducting a number of measurements and are contributing to the Work Package 3 “Efficiency of innovative ecosystem scale restoration practices”.

These environments, increasingly characterized by spontaneous natural processes or continuously marked by human activity, are places of food, shelter or reproduction for a large number of species.

Vlado Vancura,
expert at the European Wilderness Society.

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