Since 1983, several small catchments have been instrumented in the neighborhood of Draix and Le Brusquet (French Southern Alps) to study mountain floods and erosion. This observatory is located in a badland area characterized by a very erodible shale substrate, high slopes, mostly barren terrain, resulting into very high erosion rates and high sediment yield during the floods.
The observatory was extended downstream in 2007 to the Bléone catchment. This larger catchment integrates a higher diversity of lithologies, vegetation cover and land use. Studies focusing on scale effects, water and sediment management at the regional scale, were developped in this framework.
Research teams from different universities and institutes are currently involved in multidisciplinary research on the observatory. Hydrologists, civil engineers, geographers, geomorphologists, geochimists and ecology specialists have been working together on a wide range of projects to investigate water and sediment fluxes through the system, and the effects of vegetation on them.
The Draix-Bléone observatory was first labeled as an Observatory for Research in Environment by the French Ministry for Research in 2002, and is now part of the French Network for the Observation of the Critical Zone (RBV). Draix observatory is composed of 7 catchments of varying size, morphology and vegetation cover.
The Roubine, Moulin, Laval and Francon catchments are located on a highly erodible shale substrate (badlands). The Brusquet catchment has been reforested by the French Forest Office (Mountain Restoration Service) at the end of the XIXth century.
The observatory was extended with several stations on the Bléone catchment during 2007 and 2012. Among these stations, the Bouinenc and Galabre are still monitored. These larger catchments integrate a wider diversity of lithologies, morphologies and land covers.