Saline Marshes

Saline marshes, a microcosm to preserve and nurture

Grande Saline is not only one of the isle’s loveliest beaches. For those who take the time to look before crossing its famous dune, it is also a fascinating, but fragile biotope, an exceptional site for nature-lovers and photographers.

Indeed, this former salt pan, whose original contour remains quite visible, is a natural habitat for dozens of very rare, and in some cases, endemic, bird species. At any time, black-winged stilts lightly walk its banks without disturbing the uncanny aerial ballet of sandpipers, sharp-tailed sandpipers, plovers and squacco herons, unerringly drawn to its nutrient-rich silt and its waters brimming with Artemias, minuscule shrimps that tint the surface pink. At water’s edge, mangroves offer secure nesting places.

But the regeneration of this ancient and delicately balanced ecosystem depends on its link to the sea. In the old days of salt collecting, a pipe was built near Chauvette to replenish the water level of the basins. When salt harvesting was abandoned, the pipe was no longer used and the marsh depended on rainwater from the surrounding hills for irrigation. A source that proves insufficient in the battle against evaporation: During a heat wave, the marsh bottom is laid bare to predators, exposing the eggs laid by certain species to cats and hikers. Fortunately, the Chauvette pipeline is newly operational for the benefit of flora and fauna.

Many of the isle’s humid zones essential sanctuaries of its biodiversity have sadly receded in the past few decades. Saline’s marshes remain a precious treasure. To take a few minutes to observe and appreciate the subtle harmony of the place on the way to the beach, is a first step toward contributing to its preservation.

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