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Territorial development and multifonctional agriculture

In summary

In a word

  • 62 permanent staff including 47 researchers, engineers and technicians
  • 46 top-ranking publications per year on average

Three lines of scientific research

  • Renewal of the connection between productive activities
    and the territories
  • Social construction and effectiveness of territorial and
    environmental public action
  • "Greening" of residents, users and professionals practices

Editorial : global changes in the heart of the territories

Ntahalie Bertrand, Deputy science director, DTAMChanges such as migratory movements, increased social disparities, scarcity of natural resources, food security, etc., often characterized as "global", are also occurring at the local level, that of the rural, peri-urban, coastal and mountain territories. These changes are having a considerable impact on the daily management of natural resources, environmental conservation and economic activities. To achieve a better understanding of these societal issues and their consequences, the Irstea teams involved in the research topicof Territorial development and multifunctional agriculture (DTAM) are engaged in research in three areas of activity.


  • The first looks at the revitalization of the connection between economic activities and the territories, whether it relates to new forms of territorial anchoring of these activities, their environmental performance or the attractiveness of the territories.
  • The second research area concerns social construction and the effectiveness of territorial and environmental public action. The work being conducted is designed to study changes in the principles of intervention, the role of the institutions in public and collective action and the evaluation of the economic, social and environmental impact of policies.
  • The third and last area of activity looks at the "greening" of the practices of the actors involved (residents, users and professionals), making reference to the integration of environmental concerns at the heart of public or private actions. The way in which these environmental concerns are taken into account is studied from the standpoint of the transformation of the practices of the individuals and their connections within the sectors and territories.

This work, which has been under way for about ten years at Irstea, supplies tools, methodologies and analyses with a view to offering support, assistance in decisionmaking and the capacity for forward planning. It also enriches knowledge on two crosscutting issues: first, that of socio economic and environmental inequalities, often cumulative at the territorial level; second, that of adaptation to global change (climate disruption, economic globalization, population and migration dynamics, energy issues, social change, etc.).

Such a research field necessarily brings into play many of Irstea’s existing disciplines. Consequently, economists, sociologists, agronomists,  geographers and political analysts can use their skills to provide the public decision makers with documented knowledge, integrated analyses and evaluations of the efficiency of the mechanisms put in place.

Selected research projects

Water quality: a land use issue


Decoding environmental inequality


Climate change. What future for the Garonne-Gironde area?


The "Green and blue belt"

Interview with a partner

Parcs nationaux de France, a privileged relationship with research

An interview with Gilles Landrieu, deputy director of Parcs nationaux de France (PNF), a public agency tasked with organizing, promoting and contributing to the management of France’s ten national parks.

What links do the french national parks maintain with scientific research?
They are responsible for land and sea spaces with an exceptional natural, cultural and landscape heritage. Consequently, they need research to understand how they work and to prepare management and protection strategies. In addition, they themselves constitute experimentation areas for the researchers who can monitor the long-term changes in biodiversity and the impacts of global change.
More specifically, what is the relationship between PNF and Irstea?
Some of Irstea’s researchers are very involved as scientific advisers to PNF and its parks and contribute to inter-park discussions. Furthermore, a sociologist from Irstea is studying the dynamics emerging from the reform of 2006 which has strengthened the commitment of the parks to the protection of biodiversity and the implementation of a sustainable development strategy, and which led to the creation of PNF.
what is the future of these collaborations in the context of the proposed french agency for biodiversity (AFB)?
PNF will disappear as a federating body, but the parks will continue to exist and to need research; this is why AFB will have to maintain a minimum level of coordination. Moreover, the merging of PNF with the French national agency for water and aquatics environments (Onema) and the Marine protected areas agency within AFB will provide an opportunity for the parks to focus more on water-related issues, concerning which Irstea has acknowledged expertise.

Parcs nationaux de France

Scientific databases

Comparison... for better decision-making
The analysis of 142 Alpine ski resorts has enabled the researchers to set up a database of unpublished material to assist public actors and managers in their development policies.
In the mountain regions, the stations represent a crucial factor in local development. But while they are facing major challenges such as climate change, the evolution of the tourist market, the replacement of equipment, etc., they lack information to guide their support and investment policies. This has led to the creation of the Observatory of winter sport resorts, a knowledge base developed by Irstea at the request of the Committee of the Alps region, of which an online version, called StationoScope has been available free of charge since 2014.
A genuine atlas of Alpine resorts, the StationoScope includes varied and up-todate information (governance, equipment, property, employment, demography, etc.); comparison of such data makes it possible to prioritize actions and guide public policy. It also has a territorial analysis module which supplies summary findings by area of study. Lastly, snow-cover data emerging from the Météo France models have been incorporated to identify the resorts most threatened by global warming. In the long run, the goal is for it to become a forwardlooking modelling tool.