A large restoration project started in 2011 in the former saltworks of Salin-de Giraud, located in the southeast of the Rhône delta, within the Camargue Regional Natural Park and the UNESCO‘s Man and Biosphere Reserve. This site represents a vast coastal area of 6,500 ha in the municipalities of Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, partially transformed and used for industrial salt production from 1950 to 2008. It was characterised by a strong artificialisation, with seafront dykes and disconnection among different water bodies used as ponds for salt extraction. After the acquisition of the area by the French Coastal Authority (Conservatoire du Littoral), a fundamental shift in the vocation of the site from salt production to wetland restoration guided the new management strategy, turning the forming saltworks into a buffer zone to mitigate storms effects and also sea level rise.
Main objective of the works, still on-going, is the restoration of the natural characteristics and processes of the ecosystem to ensure connectivity among different water bodies, increase the natural resilience and reduce the effects of climate change and the risks of natural disasters. Interventions have been implemented according to the Nature Based Solution (NBS) approach and included restoration of gravitational water flows and abandonment of seafront dykes leading to the creation of a natural littoral. Positive effects have been already detected, from an environmental, social and economic point of view. Restoration works have also created a new space for recreational activities and provided opportunity for knowledge development in the field of coastal dynamics and management.