Site details

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Flag of France
1 star - Not protected
LTBR Focal Site

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Rade de Villefranche-sur-mer (view from the North) Photo:

Extensive description of site:

The Bay of Villefranche (French Riviera), is a medium sized but very deep bay (> 300 m depth at the Bay’s mouth, > 2000 m 10 nautical miles offshore). Part of the Bay is occupied by a Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadow and there are deep bioconstructions on hard substratum. The Bay acts as a trap for deep zooplanktonic species which migrate vertically.

Habitats present:
Littoral XX
Seagrass bedsX

Description of fauna and flora:

Since the creation in 1884 of the “Station russe de zoologie”, renamed “Station zoologique de Villefranche-sur-Mer” and presently “Observatoire océanologique de Villefranche”, numerous studies have concerned fauna and flora, both pelagic and benthic. Many phyla are thus well-documented. A particular feature of the area is that the pelagic fauna exhibits an oceanic character and includes numerous macroplanktonic invertebrate species, mainly gelatinous organisms.

Human impact:

The area is subjected to moderate levels of pollution from the large conurbation of Nice city. Untreated waste waters are introduced east of the Bay (off cape Ferrat) at 80m depth, sporadically increasing seawater nutrients concentration. The water within the Bay is usually very clear and salty due to the low discharge of nearby small rivers (Roya, Var and Paillon). Fishing activity in the area is quite low but boat traffic is high. Invading algae Caulerpa taxifolia and Caulerpa racemosa are locally present in the Bay.


All facilities for marine biodiversity research are available : two small research vessels, diving equipment, equipped laboratories and several specialized libraries. The laboratory includes accomodation rooms for visiting scientist and student groups. Planktonic species are sampled daily and a large specimen collection is available for retrospective studies.

Available database and website:

Several physical and chemical variables are routinely monitored at one station; this survey is supported by a national program (SOMLIT/RNSM) and data are available on-line. The corresponding species inventory is not yet fully available on-line but it is in progress. The Observatoire has its own website:


Commitment and ongoing research:

The Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche is under the control of both INSU-CNRS and Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris). Most of the biodiversity-related research in the area is undertaken by the LOV unit (Laboratoire Oceanographique de Villefranche) which is involved in both national and european programmes.