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Gorges du Gardon
GORGES DU GARDON
The Gardon has patiently dug out its gorges from a block of limestone a few hundred meters thick to create a winding canyon, oriented east-west, which meets up again with the plains about 15 km before flowing into the Rhone. Plateaus and hills covered with scrub and oaks, confine the gorge to the north and south. The karstic nature of the terrain has allowed the slow creation of cavities that have a valuable appeal to bats.
LAWS PROTECTING THE STUDY AREA
At national level:
- A regional Order for the protection of the habitat.
At regional level:
- A Regional Nature Reserve of the Gardon gorges,
- Two classified sites,
- A classified site,
- Natural Areas of Ecological Interest Fauna and Flora.
SCIENTIFIC DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY AREA
This steep-sided valley is limited to the north and south by plateaus and hills covered with scrub vegetation with the dominant oak interspersed here and there with patches of Mediterranean prairie grass (areas of Brachypodium palms). The Riparian forests are still very interesting despite the damage caused by flooding in 2002 and 2003, with remarkable variants of the Judea tree. On both sides of these gorges, plains which emerge from the limestone hills, shelter villages. Finally, the massif and the gorges of the Gardon possess many natural cavities due to the karstic nature of the substrate. Several of them are of great interest to bats.
IMPORTANCE OF THE PROJECT AREA FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE TWO TARGET SPECIES
The Gardon gorges form a complex system of cavities favouring the presence of many species of bats throughout the year, 20 of the 27 species identified at a regional level have been observed there. This area is designated in France as a "site of international interest for the conservation of bats, to protect as a matter of urgency" (Roué, 1995).
In relation to the Greater Horseshoe Bat, its presence is only observed in the hibernation period at least 130 individuals in six cavities. But this figure is certainly an underestimate given the potential of existing hibernation sites. In fact, the number of cavities present on the site that have never been explored by bat watchers is estimated at 300. Like the Alpilles, the winter population constitutes the main interest for the project in the Gardon gorges, which probably host an important part of the breeding populations of the Camargue.
In relation to Geoffroy’s Bat, the Gardon gorges are part of the hunting grounds for the largest breeding colony in the Languedoc-Roussillon: 600 individuals in an old barn.