The Aix Centre is dedicated to the study of natural hazards and the vulnerability of ecosystems.
► 500, 000 trees were measured over the past 6 years to assess the effects of climate change in Provence.
The Aix-en-Provence Centre conducts research supports public policies and works in partnership with socio-economic entities in the area of risk related to management practices for land and water-based ecosystems. It also analyses risk related to certain structures, facilities and technology when interacting with these ecosystems (dams, dykes, irrigation systems, nuclear plants).
Its activities are partly influenced by its location in the Mediterranean and South-Alpine regions, an area characterised by strong anthropogenic pressure against a backdrop of climate change; this is disturbing the area’s exceptional biodiversity.
The fields of study are ecology, engineering, civil engineering, statistics and hydrology.
Specialists with proven experience and high-performance scientific equipment
Irstea is based in Tholonet, near Aix-en-Provence, and has 80 permanent staff, including 42 engineers and scientists. In addition, every year the centre welcomes around fifteen doctoral students (see the thesis page) and around thirty trainees from higher education institutions. The Aix-en-Provence centre has:
- its own resources (contracts) of €1,730,000 in 2010 – an increase of 18% compared to 2008
- a soil mechanics laboratory
- a testing laboratory for irrigation equipment
- a laboratory for hydrobiology and field equipment
- a catchment area for research and experimentation : Réal Collobrier (Var)
- a field test plant for sprinklers on the Merle estate (ENSA, National Agricultural College of Montpellier) developed in partnership with ARVALIS – Plant Institute (agricultural applied research organisation)
- a documentation centre and a photo library “Mediterranean forests and fire”
- a geographical information system that uses Arc Info and graphics workstations.
A well-established regional presence and a multifaceted international presence
The Aix-en-Provence Centre is actively involved in the building of the PRES Provence Méditerranée (Provence-Mediterranean Centre of Research and Higher Education), which involves the merging of all three universities from Aix and Marseille to create one of France’s largest universities.
Moreover, all its research units are heavily involved in the ECCOREV research federation (continental ecosystems and environmental risks) which integrates around thirty organisations or universities from the South of France as well as from the two competitive clusters: Risks and Water.
The teams are developing and diversifying their activities internationally, by forming European scientific partnerships, supporting French engineering abroad and through technical cooperation. Our geographical location and the similarity of the research needs around the Mediterranean basin explain our long-standing relationships with the Maghreb and the Middle East, and the scope of these associations, especially in the fields of irrigation, forest fire risk and water.
Analysing risk and the reliability of hydraulic structures
The Aix centre investigates methodologies for analysing risk and the reliability of hydraulic structures, which are ongoing concerns for the engineers and managers involved in their design, construction and operation. Within this context, the safety assessment of a dam or dyke requires considering all potential flaws that may occur in such works as well as assessing the probability of them occurring.
Making models of uncertainties
IRSTEA researchers are designing models which display the behaviour of hydraulic structures in order to represent scenarios in which flaws occur. Developing these models (known as operational safety models) enables probabilistic risk assessment of breakage using the reliability theory. The significance of the work of Irstea in Aix can be seen in the innovative studies applied to existing works, such as studies on the dangers of dams and dykes.
- Hydrobiology (HYAX)
- Hydraulic structures and hydrology (OHAX)
- Mediterranean ecosystems and hazards (EMAX)
- Hazards linked to the water cycle (ARCEAU)
- Quality of aquatic systems and ecological regeneration (QUASARE)
- Risks associated with fast-moving gravitational phenomena, safety of hydraulic structures and vulnerability (RIVAGE)
- Land-based ecological systems, dynamics, vulnerability and engineering (SEDYVIN)