Montpellier, France
City population: 417322
Duration: 2011 – ongoing
Implementation status: Ongoing
Scale: Meso-scale: Regional, metropolitan and urban level
Project area: 1400000 m2
Type of area: Natural Heritage Area
Last updated: October 2021

"The Lez is a small Mediterranean river 28.5 km long, born from a karstic exurgence whose supply zone extends north of the source, over more than 150 km2. The “Le Lez” site was proposed in February 2001 because of the presence of several species and natural habitats protected at European level. The designated part concerns the upstream course of the Lez river, its riparian forest and associated agricultural environments. Covering an area of ​​144 hectares, the area stretches over 14 km from the Lez sources in Saint-Clément-de-Rivière to the Concorde bridge, in the town of Montpellier" (Ref. 4). Strong economic and demographic development near Le Lez implies urban pressure on peripheral sectors, particularly north of Montpellier where many residential areas are developing. The river became protected thanks to the "Natura 2000 European network" which aims to reconcile human activities and the conservation of biodiversity on the basis of the main principles of sustainable development (Ref. 4).


Nature-based solution

  • Parks and urban forests
  • Large urban parks or forests
  • Blue infrastructure
  • Rivers/streams/canals/estuaries
  • Wetlands/bogs/fens/marshes

Key challenges

  • Water management (SDG 6)
  • Flood protection
  • Stormwater and rainfall management and storage
  • Coastal resilience and marine protection (SDG 14)
  • Coastal protection
  • Marine and biodiversity protection
  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Habitat and biodiversity restoration
  • Habitat and biodiversity conservation
  • Environmental quality
  • Air quality improvement
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Environmental education
  • Health and well-being (SDG 3)
  • Enabling physical activity
  • Creation of opportunities for relaxation and recreation
  • Economic development and employment (SDG 8)
  • Tourism support
  • Cultural heritage and cultural diversity
  • Preservation of natural heritage


Protection of natural ecosystems, Management of rivers and other blue areas

Project objectives

-The preservation, improvement and balanced management of water resources -Flood risk prevention and management -Preservation, restoration and management of aquatic environments and wetlands -Information and training in the field of water (Ref. 1) -To protect the unique fish species that only exist in the river called "Chabot-du-Lez" (Ref. 7) -Walking path along the river for citizens to enjoy the fauna and flora - "Green lung" of the city (Ref. 10).

Implementation activities

"Since 2011, the Department has been working on the development of DOCOB and has launched the animation phase. In this framework, several actions related to the improvement of knowledge on the environmental issues of the site, the conservation of the habitats and the species, the sensitization and the communication were carried out." (Ref. 8) -Communication and Awareness action plans such as raising awareness among schoolchildren and the general public."(Ref. 8) "Mayor of Montpellier, decided to launch the "Lez vert" program. Objective: to arrange the shores in their natural part inaccessible to the inhabitants by ensuring a continuity pedestrian and cycling while keeping the natural character of the site. From now on, a pedestrian walkway with wooden structures allows you to observe the fauna and flora" (Ref. 10) -Cleaning days operations thanks to university students under a eco-citizen project (Ref. 11)

Biodiversity conservation or restoration-focused activities

Biodiversity conservation:

  • Protect and enhance urban habitats
  • Preserve and strengthen existing habitats and ecosystems
  • Promote environmentally-sound development in and around protected areas
  • Preserve and strengthen habitat connectivity
  • Reduce negative impacts and avoid the alteration/damage of ecosystem
  • Protect species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect native species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect endangered species
  • Means for conservation governance
  • Raise public awareness
  • Create and use scientific knowledge for conservation

Biodiversity restoration:

  • Rehabilitate and restore damaged or destroyed ecosystems
  • Public engagement

Main beneficiaries

  • Local government/Municipality
  • Citizens or community groups
  • Other


Management set-up

  • Co-governance with government and non-government actors

Type of initiating organisation

  • Regional government
  • Local government/municipality
  • District/neighbourhood association

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Dissemination of information and education
  • Consultation (e.g. workshop, surveys)
  • Citizen oversight (e.g. boards, advisory)
  • Citizen science
  • Citizen monitoring and review

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

Department of Hérault is the main initiator (Régional). However, many actors are involved such as associations, citizens and other local organisations such as the city of Montpellier (Ref. 1). -The Union of the Lez basin: "The Union is the guarantor of a comprehensive, coherent and concerted management of water and provides the necessary funding from Europe, the State, the Water Agency and local authorities." (documents to upload Ref. 7, "Télécharger le TOME 1 du DOCOB "Diagnostics, programme d'actions et charte Natura 2000", page 265). -Cleaning days operations are performed thanks to university students under a eco-citizen project (Ref. 11) -"Mayor of Montpellier, decided to launch the "Lez vert" program. (Ref 10) -EU involvement: The Le Lez River is classified as a Natura 2000 site: "The "Lez" site was proposed in February 2001 because of the presence of several species and natural habitats protected at European level." (Ref. 4)

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? Yes (The Le Lez River is classified as a Natura 2000 site: "The "Lez" site was proposed in February 2001 because of the presence of several species and natural habitats protected at European level." (Ref. 4) "Natura 2000, based on the application of the European Birds and Habitats Directives, is implementing concrete actions to ensure the maintenance or restoration of natural and semi-natural habitats and species of fauna and flora Of Community interest." (Ref. 1))
... a national policy or strategy? Unknown
... a local policy or strategy? Yes (Biodiversity Plan (Ref. 5))


Total cost

More than €4,000,000

Source(s) of funding

  • EU funds
  • Public national budget
  • Public regional budget
  • Public local authority budget

Type of funding

  • Earmarked public budget
  • Direct funding or subsidy

Non-financial contribution

Type of non-financial contribution
  • Provision of labour
Who provided the non-financial contribution?
  • Citizens (e.g. volunteering)
  • Other

Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Water management and blue areas
  • Increased protection against flooding
  • Enhanced protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems
  • Enhanced protection and restoration of freshwater ecosystems
  • Green space and habitat
  • Increased number of protection areas
  • Increased conservation or restoration of ecosystems
  • Increase in protected green space areas
  • Reduced biodiversity loss
  • Increased protection of threatened species

Economic impacts

  • Unknown

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Social justice and cohesion
  • Improved access to urban green space
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Gain in activities for recreation and exercise
  • Cultural heritage and sense of place
  • Improvement in people’s connection to nature
  • Protection of natural heritage
  • Protection of historic and cultural landscape / infrastructure
  • Increased awareness of flora and fauna as culturally and historically meaningful
  • Education
  • Increased support for education and scientific research
  • Increased knowledge of locals about local nature

Type of reported impacts

Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system


Presence of indicators used in reporting


Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports


Availability of a web-based monitoring tool