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What operational solutions has research on wetlands produced since 2001? How well do those solutions correspond to the needs of wetland managers? This article looks at the results presented by the National museum of natural history during the meeting held on 13 December.

Since the end of the second national research programme for wetlands in 2001, the topic "wetlands" has been addressed by at least 440 research projects in the framework of over 30 research programmes organised by the National research agency (ANR), Eaux & Territoires, PNETOX, Liteau, Invabio, etc. In 2012, at the request of Onema, Guillaume Gayet, under the guidance of Geneviève Barnaud at the Natural heritage department of the National museum of natural history (MNHN), analysed the operational results produced by the research. "The project consisted of analysing first the topics selected by scientists over the ten-year period, then the value of the operational results for management purposes given the needs expressed by the people in the field", explains Guillaume Gayet, who presented his work during the meeting in Paris on 13 December.

A limited number of operational results

The analysis of the research topics revealed that littoral wetlands were the most frequently studied (57% of projects), followed by wetlands in alluvial valleys (14%) and artificial wetlands (15%). Over half of the research projects focused on the habitat functions of wetlands, followed by the biochemical (26%) and hydrological (16%) functions. The study produced one major piece of information, i.e. that research targeting an operational result represented only a small proportion of the work. "Of the 80 projects targeting management deliverables, only one-third actually produced transferable tools and methods, and even among the latter, complete scientific validation was occasionally lacking", notes Guillaume Gayet.

Aligning results with the expressed needs

During the study, the MNHN team collected data on the needs of wetland managers via a questionnaire sent out to the various entities nationwide, including environmental-protection groups, local governments and both public and private organisations. The analysis of the 156 responses received revealed the discrepancy between scientific policy and the needs in the field. One example, according to Guillaume Gayet, is that "The needs expressed by the people in the field for operational results concerning wet pastures, side channels, riparian corridors, reed ponds, forests and ponds far exceed the results of the relatively small number of research projects on those topics". Conversely, managers expressed few needs for operational results concerning littoral zones which are the topic of over half of all the research projects. Generally speaking, managers are interested in the habitat functions of wetlands and frequently express the need for assessment tools and for the technical means to take action. The MNHN study will result in four reports, the last of which will identify the scientific advances most useful for management purposes (in view of their transfer) and list a number of guidelines to bring scientific policy better into line with the needs in the field.

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