Étang de Berre

The Étang de Berre area is a rare natural environment with lagoons, wetlands and limestone hills. Home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, it represents a natural treasure for the world.

• 3,000 hectares shelter a rich biodiversity with:
359 bird species,
53 mammal species,
135 butterfly species and a wide range of plant species, some of which are endemic (i.e. exist no where else).

Occupied by man for at least 12,000 years, the area around the Étang de Berre is the site of several major innovations in the history and the cultural evolution of mankind. For example, breeding goats and sheep began on the banks of the lagoon 9,000 years ago. This crucial event marks the beginning of the transition between the Paleolithic-Mesolithic period and Neolithic period - a period of deep-seated technical, economical and social evolution.
The area surrounding the lagoon, Pays de l’Étang de Berre is also an important example of man’s adaptation to the climate and the environment. Particularly 6,000 years ago, when the Mediterranean rose and flooded the lagoon in the the centre of the area. The breeding activities on the shores of the lagoon were joined by hunting, fishing and gathering populations. They adapted their fishing techniques to marine species which quickly replaced their existing practices for freshwater fish.

Finally, the Étang de Berre area is symbolic of the way man has shaped and developed economic and industrial activity in a natural setting over thousands of years. For example, from the beginning of the Iron Age in 600 BC, the salt marshes - still being used today - were already in use on the Saint-Blaise site in the commune of Saint-Mitre-les-Remparts. Since Antiquity men have been using the stone around the lagoon, particularly the limestone from the Massif de la Nerthe. More recently, the arrival of the chemical industry around Étang de Berre from the 17th century with the royal gunpowder factory in Saint-Chamas, then in the 19th and 20th centuries with the production of soda and storage, and later refinery, of petrol, have left their mark on the landscape and the ecosystems. Before preservation and restoration measures were able to limit the impact on the environment.

As a result, the Étang de Berre area provides valuable and pertinent information about the development of a natural setting by man across a long period of history, including alternating episodes of transformation and disruption, then conservation. This dynamic balance must continue to evolve in harmony with the well-being of the local population and sustainable development and energy transition issues in a global context of climate change, while maintaining industrial activity which ensures economic growth and provides jobs.

Étang de Berre: candidate for the UNESCO world heritage list.