Management of the reserve

Management of the reserve

Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) © J-C. Croisé
The Cattle Egret is aptly named! Here, it accompanies the Parthenais breed of cattle.

The reserve's main role: to protect the area and the species associated with it. This area is however not set in stone and human help is essential. Breeding in harmony with the sound management of water levels is key to the good ecological functioning of the meadows. Finally, in a reserve which at certain times of the year can host several thousand birds, peace and quiet is also essential.


The natural wet meadows of the Marais Poitevin are traditionally maintained by extensive grazing. Cows and horses work together to maintain this open area. And thanks to these natural mowers, the meadows have an incredibly rich variety of plants. Birds are also well-catered for, both in terms of nesting and feeding.

Certain species, like Cattle Egret bird, or Threebract Loosestrife plant, are "opportunistic" and make the most of the presence of cattle in their own ways. The former enjoys eating the insects attracted to these impressive neighbours, whilst the latter appreciates the small grooves formed by hoof prints to grow in.

Managing water levels

Whilst a large area of the meadow is flooded by around 50cm of water in winter, it is often completely dried out in autumn. The manager works on optimising the water levels in winter and spring to encourage birds to stop and breed here. Paradoxically, total drought of wet meadows in autumn is also necessary for the sound ecological balance of the area and it is forced if it does not occur naturally. It allows certain rare plants to grow, and the mineralisation of organic matter and soil aeration to occur.

Peace and quiet

If this many birds come to the reserve, it is due to the obvious attractiveness of the area but also, and above all, the absence of disturbance. For this reason, access to the public is supervised and various activities, including hunting, are strictly forbidden. In addition, during the waterfowl hunting season the site, and in particular its main "baisse", act as a diurnal safe haven for thousands of ducks.

Controlling invasive species

The nature reserve is not isolated from the rest of the area and suffers from the presence of various invasive species: Coypu, Muskrat, Red swamp Crayfish or Water Fern. Whilst regulation is possible for the Coypu and the Muskrat, handling the Red swamp Crayfish is much more complicated...

Close-up on: the Poitevin horse

Poitevin horse © RNN St Denis du Payré

A cross between the old local breeds and the Flemish horses brought by the Dutch during the 17th century drainage works, the Poitevin Horse is particularly hardy and well suited to wet meadows.

This is why, and also to help protect this breed, the reserve and the village gave a passionate breeder the right to graze them here.