Objectives and problematics of the event

Wetlands such as those of the Danube Delta (deltas, coasts, rivers, lakes …) are «hot spots» for biodiversity. These environments, subject to global changes, constitute sensitive ecosystems whose management requires an understanding of the mechanisms of formation and functioning. They are also important cultural places wherein the societies that have developed them are united by the presence and management of water, resulting in the creation of microcosms with remarkable social specificities.

This conference takes account of all types of wetlands: fresh, brackish and saltwater, running water, standing water  and permanent or temporary water that constitute marshes, peatlands, rivers, estuaries, deltas and shallow marine areas.

The objective of this meeting is to examine the trajectories of anthropogenically modified wetlands, and whether such modifications have been favourable or unfavorable – especially the question of temporalities and the usefulness of reconstructing the geohistorical evolution of wetlands in order to establish sustainable management policies.

In particular, the meeting will highlight the role of old or recent human interventions in the functioning of these environments, the temporalities of their alteration or improvement with a view to taking them into account in their management.

This international scientific event is jointly organized in Tulcea, Romania and in the Danube Delta (UNESCO reserve) by the CNRS (UMR 5602 GEODE and 7266 LIENSs), the Wetlands History Group, the ICEM «Gravila Simion Institute» of Tulcea and the Danube Delta Research Institute with the support of the Romanian Limnogeographical Association and CEDETE (Univ. Orléans).

Meetings will be placed under the patronage of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and the Tulcea County Council and the French Institute of Bucharest. They are part of the 2019 Franco- Romanian activities. The Romanian setting is ideal for reflecting on the environmental trajectories of water sites and how they can be better integrated into development policies. Romania’s wetland heritage is both varied and rich, recording a succession of contradictory and original methods of development, particularly during the Communist period. Recently rehabilitated, management policies are now being envisaged that will reconcile the biodiversity and socio-cultural aspects of wetlands.



Objectives of the event

The objective of this meeting is to develop a diachronic and chrono-systemic approach to wetlands and the trajectories of their anthropization by combining the analysis of landscapes with that of the uses and representations that shape them. The aim is to evaluate long-term socio-environmental interrelationships and ask questions relating to the heritage and conservation of these environments.

The principle aim is to call upon diverse fields of study and environments (mountains, coasts, deltas and alluvial plains…) in Romania, Europe and the Mediterranean … in order to explore different temporalities and different phases of anthropization (under development, reconstruction, abandonment) in order to cross disciplinary boundaries and problems.

These meetings will promote interdisciplinary approaches to the study of wetlands, from historical, geographical, sociological, legal and environmental points of view by putting into perspective the notions of trajectories, heritage, conservation as well as socio-environmental impacts.



Until recently, wetlands were often the object of revulsion and rejection on the part of societies. Often «ignored, conspired and even destroyed until the 1990s, continental wetlands have gradually become one of the major challenges of the various environmental and planning policies at national, European and global levels» (Cubizolle, Sajaloli, Sacca – https://journals.openedition.org/geocarrefour/8664). Since the 1990s, this object of research has been the subject of numerous historical, geographical and ecological reflections because wetlands are the starting point of numerous of essential ecosystem services (flood management, water purification, etc.), they represent remarkable biodiversity and contribute to a cultural singularisation of territories. Since knowledge has considerably evolved about these aspects, we need to now better understand and synthesize the geohistorical phases of changes in wetland anthropization, restoration and adaptation.

Geohistory is experiencing a revival of interest in scientific spheres, as evidenced by the organization of recent international symposiums where temporal approaches were applied to understanding territories (Symposium «Geohistory of risks and natural river heritage» organized by the GHZH in Orléans in 2013; symposium «Geohistory of the environment and landscapes» proposed by the GEODE laboratory in Toulouse in 2016; symposium «Les temps des territoires» in Nanterre in March 2017, symposium «Archéologie et Zones humides» proposed by the GHZH in Bibracte in November 2017, international symposium of the RUCHE: «Writing Environmental History in the 21st Century: Sources, Methods and Practices, 13-15 June 2018). The aims of the organisers of the 2019 meeting is to take stock of research into the geohistory of wetlands through according to three aspects: anthropization, restoration and adaptation. Does the geohistorical approach imply new approaches and new methods in answering questions about wetlands? Ultimately, this symposium presents an opportunity to forge links between disciplines and with Romanian colleagues.



Themes of the event

Three themes will be specifically addressed:

Theme 1: Reconstitution of spatio-temporal trajectories of wetlands

The consideration of long temporalities is often absent from debates about wetland management as well as that of the interlocking of temporal scales between them (decadal, secular, multisecular) and with spatial scales (from the large scale of the site to the small scale of the macro- region). However, historical dynamics and developments are of considerable importance in the current functioning of ecosystems and in the perceptions of their users, which determine the conditions of social support for development or preservation projects. The geohistorical approach allows the integration of temporality in territories; it is favourable to the reconstitution of spatio-temporal trajectories. In addition to the geohistorical approach, geoarchaeology and environmental history allow us to trace and go back further in time. The temporal dimension provides a critical perspective on territorial trajectories and leads to more «sustainable» decision-making in wetland management policies. How can this geohistorical dimension be taken into account in this management process? In what way can we understand legacies, ancient uses, past and present anthropic interventions?

Wetlands have undergone major phases of degradation over the last centuries through the multiplication of developments and uses, so that many of them have become anthropic milieus considerably reduced by societies. At the same time, certain phases of development have been favourable to their natural wealth and expansion, as in the case of the creation of ponds. We can profitably ask: what types of development damage or enhance wetlands? What are the ecological and socio-cultural effects of these successive phases on water territories? Are climate change and extreme events responsible for wetland degradation? Are there thresholds within the spatiotemporal trajectories of wetlands? At what point do systems become so artificial that the resilience of their biophysical functioning is threatened?


Faced with increasing anthropization and degradation, more and more wetlands are becoming heritage areas. How do we take into account the cultural specificities of wet societies (solidarity, community practices, adaptations, isolates…)? Who are the promoters of these operations and can we distinguish the actors, deciders and modes of implementation? Finally, what representations of wetlands underlie these operations for the heritage presentation or re-qualification of water sites? Is there not a contradiction between this heritage-making and the image of «wild» conveyed by wetlands?


Theme 2: Restoring wetlands and the myth of baseline status

Faced with the anthropization and degradation of wetlands, many operations aim to enhance and restore wetlands, both in rural and urban areas. Ecological restoration is becoming more widespread in all types of wetlands.

What types of operations are performed during restoration? How should we view these ecological reconstructions in relation to the reconstruction of space-time trajectories?

Through the different temporal trajectories of wetlands, is it possible to perceive a geohistorical factory of nature? What anthropogenic heritages are involved in the biophysical functioning of wetlands? What are the challenges in building bridges between cultural and natural heritage? Can we speak of ecological culturality in the tripartite relations between naturality / anthropic / culturality in the framework of restoration operations?

The organizers will be attentive to proposals showing case studies through operability and monitoring of these operations.


Theme 3: New uses, new values, new heritages

Wetland restoration operations are often associated with initiatives to raise awareness and educate the public and users (signs, publication, etc.) conducted by dissimilar actors (State, local authorities, associations, private initiatives, etc.), whose roles and relays need to be clearly distinguished.  Long decried, wetlands have undergone a revolution as object of study and regard on the part of users. What are these new uses and new values? Does the diffusion of new valuation schemes and recognition of their ecosystem services change the perceived understanding of wetlands? What amenities are also being promoted and what are the drivers of water place heritage development?

Does the implementation of restoration operations generate a new outlook on wetlands that challenges the old dialectic of attraction – repulsion? Does wetland heritage development constitute a new form of territorial marketing? In particular, what strategies should be established if we consider as heritage not only the natural amenities that exist or have existed but the different geohistorical stages of the links between wetlands and the societies that have developed them?