Nantes and the estuary: “a symbolic stopover for Tara on the way to COP21“

© C.Lesacq/Tara Expéditions

For their last stop en route to the Paris COP21, Tara and her crew are docked on the banks of the Loire in the city of Nantes. This is an opportunity for André Abreu, head of environment and climate for Tara Expeditions, to recall the close links between the ocean and estuary, the sea and land.

©C.Lesacq/Tara Expéditions

©C.Lesacq/Tara Expéditions

Why did you choose Nantes as the last stop before Paris?

The stopover in Nantes is symbolic for us. Nantes, as a city on an estuary, is particularly vulnerable to climate change, rising seawaters and fluctuating river water. The estuary is a land-sea interface — the meeting point between river and ocean, fresh water and salt water. It is also a particularly vulnerable area for biodiversity, especially because there are fish such as salmon, trout and carp swimming up estuaries to spawn. The Loire is also the last natural estuary in France; all others have artificial dams. That’s why it’s particularly important to conserve it.

What might be the impacts of climate change on the Nantes estuary?

First there’s the impact on biodiversity: climate change will alter salinity levels in the river. A large influx of salt water, which is occurring more and more frequently, leaves traces by changing the chemical composition of the water, and killing those species sensitive to salinity and pH. But beyond that, of course it impacts humans and their activities, for example small-scale fishing.

It’s hard to imagine Nantes under water …

It’s true that Nantes has been spared so far. But let’s remember that during the storm Xynthia in 2010, one of the cities of the Nantes region (Le Pellerin) was affected by the disaster. This kind of extreme event, with a rise in sea level that encroaches upon estuaries, is relatively recent. And with climate change, these events are more frequent. We haven’t seen much of this in Nantes yet. But according to the most likely projection — the scenario of a 4 degree warming by 2100, this could occur soon. Tara is present in Nantes today because it’s important to remind people that what’s happening in the oceans will eventually disturb even small-scale fishing in the river upstream of the estuary. It’s essential to highlight examples like the city of Nantes because often the reaction to the COP21 is: “Oh no, this climate change thing again; I don’t care.” In fact the effects of this change will affect water sports, offshore boating, fishing, the local economy, tourism: millions of people.

Interview by Clémence Lesacq

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