Mediterranean vernal pools are threatened habitats that support a number of endangered/rare plant and invertebrate species. Conservation management of these important habitats is limited by a lack of knowledge, especially concerning their past and present ecological dynamics. A multidisciplinary palaeoecological investigation was conducted on one of the last alkaline vernal pools of the Rhone delta (southern France). Results highlighted the value of a multidisciplinary approach based on several complementary methods, and provide direction for subsequent palaeoecological studies in temporary wetlands. Despite some degradation, fossil assemblages provide an accurate reconstruction of the past ecological dynamics of the vernal pool studied. The pool originated c. 1100 years ago from the infilling of an abandoned palaeochannel and its subsequent fragmentation. It may thus be considered as a legacy of past natural fluvial activity, which ended with the complete channelization and confinement of the River Rhone in 1869 AD. With natural processes disrupted, new pools may need to be artificially constructed in order to preserve the biological communities of alkaline vernal pools of the Rhone delta.
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Vol. 28 • No. 4