France has named La Dombes as its 53rd Wetland of International Importance. This “Ramsar Site” (no.2500 on the “Ramsar List”), adds 47,659 hectares to the total area of French Wetlands of International Importance.
La Dombes features more than 1,200 ponds located on a flat plain north of Lyon. It is a stopover and refuge site for migratory birds, including wintering birds, particularly during cold spells in eastern and northern Europe.
It is one of two major nesting sites of the red-crested pochard (Netta rufina) in western Europe. Other nesting bird species include the little egret (Egretta garzetta), the Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) and the white stilt (Himantopus himantopus). It is the only national site where the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca) breeds regularly, and since 2012 has been the only national breeding site of the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus). Other species that make the Dombes internationally important are the common pochard (Aythya ferina), the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and the curlew (Numenius arquata).
La Dombes is known for its birds, but other characteristic species include the woodland brown butterfly (Lopinga achine) and the great capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo), as well as bats such as the European barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) and Beichstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii).
The Site is used for long term monitoring and for recreational hunting and fishing. It faces four major challenges: the problem of recurrent droughts, the frequency of which has increased with climate change; the pursuit of water management based on traditional practices that respect the cycles of the ponds (alternating drying and flooding); the reduction of impacts related to the effects of intensive agricultural practices on soils that favour the diffusion of pollutants; and invasive alien species.