HomeLacustrine territories and landscapes: from plain and foothills to mountain lakes

Lacustrine territories and landscapes: from plain and foothills to mountain lakes

Territoires et paysages lacustres : des lacs de plaine aux lacs de montagne

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Published on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 by Céline Guilleux


This workshop aims at gathering social sciences researchers interested in lakes and lake areas. By confronting different perspectives and case studies, the idea is to analyse relationships between lakes and societies, and to make a state of the art in this field. The workshop proposes to examine the construction of lake territories and lake landscapes, in a transversal perspective, crossing fields of human geography, law, political science, anthropology, sociology, history, ...


November 14 and 15, 2019

Le Bourget du Lac (France), Université Savoie Mont Blanc, EDYTEM


This workshop aims at gathering social sciences researchers interested in lakes and lake areas. By confronting different perspectives and case studies, the idea is to analyse relationships between lakes and societies, and to make a state of the art in this field. The workshop proposes to examine the construction of lake territories and lake landscapes, in a transversal perspective.

The project of a social sciences workshop about lakes comes from an observation we made in EDYTEM laboratory (Université Savoie Mont Blanc, France), when we began to study foothills and mountain lakes focusing on a social sciences approach. Lakes are a common research object in environmental sciences, studying them as ecosystems and/or as ecological archives reservoirs (Touchart, 2002; Magni et Chinaglia, 2007; Arnaud et al., 2014). On the contrary, few research has been conducted about lakes in social sciences, even though ecologists underline how necessary it would be (Redman et al., 2004; Carpenter et al., 2007).

Actually, lake-centered social sciences research is sector-specific, devoted to different topics which are hardly ever confronted. With the exception of old monographic studies (Miège, 1933, 1934; Floret et Hubert, 1977), lake areas have mainly been studied from three perspectives in social sciences: as tourism sites (Vernex, 1987; Hall et Härkonen, 2006; Muti, 2015), as culturally-constructed landscapes (Lévy et al., 1998; Vernex, 1998; Ferrata, 2007; Liabeuf et al., 2009) and as a factor influencing property values (Orr et Pickens, 2003; Nicholls et Crompton, 2018). However, global studies of lakes and lake areas remain scarce (Barraqué et al., 1994; Klessig, 2001).

Paradoxically, and at least in the perialpine context that we study at EDYTEM, local stakeholders are more and more focusing on lakes. In Savoie and Haute-Savoie, lakes are used as new tools for tourism diversification, after half a century of winter-based tourism development. Nevertheless, these lakes are located in dynamical areas where tourism and recreation compete with demographical and urban pressures, but also with environmental issues, leading to conflicts over the way to manage the lacustrine resource (Laslaz et al., 2015; Montuelle et Clémens, 2015).

The aim of the workshop is therefore to bring together scholars interested in plain, foothills and mountain lakes, in the fields of human geography, law, political science, anthropology, sociology, history, in order to identify transversal research questions regarding lakes.  

Over two days, including a half-day field trip to Lake Bourget, the workshop intends to foster exchanges between participants, with oral presentations as supports for scientific discussions. The workshop will be limited to 20 presentations (20 min. each), with a unique plenary session. Organized by the Université Savoie Mont Blanc (EDYTEM laboratory), the workshop will be held on the Bourget-du-Lac campus.

Four guidelines are proposed to orient the discussions. They are not restrictive, and all communication proposals will be examined by the organizing committee.

Line 1. Lakes, lacustrine landscapes, lake catchment areas

In environmental sciences, lake areas are mainly studied at the small scale (the lake as a water body) and the medium scale (the drainage basin), with a focus on the quantity and quality of the water resource. Such conceptions of the lake and the lacustrine system tend to underestimate factors related to human activity, as well as the social, cultural and economic functions which produce lacustrine landscapes and territories. This line of the workshop invites to elaborate a definition of the “catchment area” of a lake (in a broader sense, not limited to the drainage basin), beyond the biophysics aspects and integrating the social sciences perspectives. The definition of a lake catchment area is not self-evident and results from a social, historical, cultural, political and juridical construction. The water level regulation of the so-called “natural” lakes, the creation of dams, the construction of artificial lakes on industrial or extractive wastelands, the management of intermittent lakes, among others processes, challenge what is defined as a “lake”, its catchment area and its environment.

In an epistemological perspective, the communications can address the following questions: How, in different contexts, are the lake, its shores and its surface defined and perceived? On which perimeters and zonings does the construction of the lake catchment area rely? What does a “lake catchment area” mean, and what criteria are used to define a lacustrine landscape or a lacustrine territory? In terms of socio-spatial dynamics, to what extent can a lake be a factor of spatial structuration and how to define its area of influence, upstream and downstream?

Line 2. Resources, uses and protection of lakes

Historically, lake uses have developed depending on social needs and existing techniques. Some of them are similar to those we encounter at sea: fishing, navigation, seaside activities, waste water disposal, and due to their popularity, both types of coastline are urbanised to a great extent. Other uses of the lakes are similar to the watercourses: beside drinking water supply and boat towing, the lake shorelines, like river banks, hold the transport infrastructure (roads, railways). As a consequence, at least in the French legal framework, lake status reflects a hybridization of both maritime and fluvial regimes. Furthermore, the succession and superposition of these uses and services led to their prioritisation and hierarchisation, including the issue of resources preservation. Public policies are proposed to ensure water quality (waste water management and construction of circular sewers), risk management, landscapes and ecosystems conservation.

How did lake uses change over time, in relation to the evolution of the techniques? What tensions can be observed between different activities? Which are the compromises? To what extent different ecosystem services are used by stakeholders, and to what extent they enable integration of the activities?

Line 3. Lake tourism: historical paths and state of play

In the course of the 19th century, a long-lasting wary attitude of societies towards still waterbodies has changed, which led to a progressive tourism development of the large perialpine  lakes, in Switzerland and France in particular. Lake tourism went through different historical stages, going from spa resorts which kept their distance from the lakes, through the construction of lakefront promenades and beaches, and later to the development and diversification of nautical activities. Nowadays, lakes are a known and renowned tourism resource. This lake tourism, sporadically documented for the large perialpine  lakes (Vernex, 1985, 1996a et b; Liabeuf et al., 2009; Gauchon, 2015; Muti, 2015), also knows larger dynamics at the worldwide scale (Hall et Härkönen, 2006). This axis thus has the vocation to make a review of the current state of lake tourism (which lakes, which tourists, which activities?) but also of its history. Moreover, it proposes a comparative regard of the perialpine lakes and those situated in other geographical contexts.

Line 4. Lake catchment areas and urban pressure

Since Neolithic to modern days, the lake catchment areas have been attractive for settlers, in particular for facilitating the communication ways (water transport and later coastal roads). This is why the majority of the areas surrounding large plain and foothills lakes are nowadays densely urbanised, often down to the lakeshores. A growing concern for the quality of living conditions contributes to reinforcing the attractivity of these territories. Their landscape and recreational amenities are appreciated by society, and especially valorised from a real-estate point of view. This axis aims to specify the demographic, urban and property dynamics that affect the lake areas at different scales (from lakeshores to larger catchment area). What  are the demographic dynamics of the catchment area? Which urban forms characterise these places, and the lake shoreline in particular? What does this imply in terms of landowning? How this challenges are taken into account by politics, and how are they reglemented by the law?


Fellow researchers are invited to submit their communication proposal

before May 10, 2019.

They should include:

  • Title of the presentation
  • Name(s) of the author(s) and their institution
  • 5-7 key-words
  • Abstract of the presentation (max. 1 page)
  • Brief introduction of the author (approx. 4 lines)

June 14, 2019: Notice to the selected authors

October 14, 2019: Announcement of the final programme

November 14 and 15, 2019: Workshop days at University Savoie Mont Blanc, Le Bourget-du-Lac, France


The working language will be French. However, English speakers can present in English, with a presentation support in French. For the case, a help with translation of the PowerPoint can be provided. The field trip will be in French, with possibility of summary translation in English, and support documents in both languages.


A project of publishing workshop papers is being considered. More information will be given during the workshop days.

Registration fees

There are no registration fees. The coffee breaks, lunch and the field trip are taken in charge by organisers. To the charge of the participants: their transport to the workshop, accommodation, Thursday’s dinner.

Organisers will provide information on accommodation options and transport to the Le Bourget-du-Lac campus mid-June, together with the announcement of accepted proposals.

Organizing committee

  • Matthieu Barril, PhD student, EDYTEM
  • Yoann Baulaz, PhD student, EDYTEM-CARRTEL
  • Ana Brancelj, PhD student, EDYTEM-IREGE
  • Alice Nikolli, PhD student EDYTEM
  • Mélanie Duval, researcher CNRS-EDYTEM
  • Christophe Gauchon, professor USMB-EDYTEM

For all the questions regarding the workshop and for the submission of the communication proposals, please use the following email address: colloque.lacs2019@univ-smb.fr 


Arnaud F., Giguet-Covex C., Wilhelm B., … Fanget B. (2014), « L’objet emblématique Lacs de Montagne. L’étude des sédiments lacustres au laboratoire EDYTEM ». In L. Astrade et J.-J. Delannoy, Dix ans de recherche au laboratoire EDYTEM, collection Edytem, pp. 107-118.

Barraqué B., Bley D., Boëtsch G., Masali N. et Rabino Massa E. (1994), « L’homme et le lac - Usages et représentations de l’espace lacustre », Cadenabbia-Griante (Italie), VIèmes journées de la Société d’Ecologie Humaine. Publié comme supplément de l’Ecologie Humaine, 1995, vol. 13, 192 p.

Carpenter, S. R., Benson, B. J., Biggs, R., Chipman, J. W., Foley, J. A., Golding, S. A., … Yuan, H. (2007), “Understanding regional change: A comparison of two lake districts”, Bioscience, 57(4), 323–335.

Floret J. et Hubert P. (1977), « Les fonctions socio-économiques du lac Léman », Revue de géographie alpine, vol. 65, n°2, pp. 181‑201.

Gauchon C. (2015), « Comment s’est développé le tourisme autour des lacs ? », in Montuelle B. et Clémens A. (dir.), Le tour des grands lacs alpins naturels en 80 questions, Zone Atelier Bassin du Rhône et Observatoire des Lacs Alpins, Villeurbanne, GRAIE, pp. 188‑189.

Hall, C.M. et Härkönen, T. (dir.) (2006), Lake tourism: an integrated approach to lacustrine tourism systems, Clevedon, Channel view publications, 235 p.

Klessig L.L. (2001), « Lakes and society: The contribution of lakes to sustainable societies », Lakes & Reservoirs, vol. 6, n°2, pp. 95‑101.

Laslaz L., Gauchon C. et Pasquet O. (2015), Atlas Savoie Mont-Blanc. Au carrefour des Alpes, des territoires attractifs, Paris, Autrement, 96 p.

Lévy B., Matos R. et Raffestin S. (1998), « L’évolution de la représentation du Léman à travers les guides et la promotion touristiques du XIXème siècle à nos jours : le cas genevois », Le Globe, vol. 138, n°1, pp. 73‑92.

Liabeuf, B. (dir.) (2009), Avec vue sur lac. Regards sur les lacs alpins du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours, Lyon, Annecy, Fage, Musée-château d’Annecy, 152 p

Magni D. et Chinaglia N. (2007), « Alpine Lakes. A common approach to the characterization of lakes and their catchment area », Alpine Lakes Network (Interreg III B "Alpine Space"), 241p.

Miège J. (1933), « La vie touristique en Savoie », Revue de géographie alpine, vol. 21, pp. 749‑817.

Miège J. (1934), « La vie touristique en Savoie (suite et fin) », Revue de géographie alpine, vol. 22, pp. 5‑213.

Montuelle, B. et Clemens, A. (dir.) (2015), Le tour des grands lacs alpins naturels en 80 questions, Zone Atelier Bassin du Rhône et Observatoire des Lacs Alpins, Villeurbanne, GRAIE, 205 p.

Nicholls S. et Crompton J.L. (2018), « The contribution of scenic views of, and proximity to, lakes and reservoirs to property values », Lakes & Reservoirs, vol. 23, n°1, pp. 63‑78.

Muti G. (2015), Il lago di Como. Turismo, territorio, immagine, Milan, Unicopli, 235 p.

Orr B.D. et Pickens J.B. (2003), « Public Access to Lake Superior and Attribute Values of Proximate Non-Shoreline Property », Journal of Great Lakes Research, vol. 29, n°4, pp. 616‑629.

Redman, C. L., Grove, J. M., & Kubyl, L. H. (2004), “Integrating Social Science into the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Social Dimensions of Ecological Change and Ecological Dimensions of Social Change”, Ecosystems, 7, 161–171.

Touchart L. (2002), Limnologie physique et dynamique : une géographie des lacs et des étangs, Paris, L’Harmattan, 395 p.

Vernex J.-C. (1987), « Evolution des pratiques et aménagement des plans d’eau : les Bains du Lac (exemple du lac d’Annecy) », Revue de Géographie Alpine, vol. 75, n°2, pp. 197‑212.

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  • Pôle Montagne,Laboratoire EDYTEM/ Université Savoie Mont Blanc - 5 boulevard de la mer Caspienne
    Le Bourget-du-Lac, France (73)


  • Friday, May 10, 2019


  • lac, espace, ressource, usage, tourisme, dynamique spatiale, représentation


  • Mélanie Duval
    courriel : melanie [dot] duval [at] univ-smb [dot] fr
  • lacs2019 colloque
    courriel : colloque [dot] lacs2019 [at] univ-smb [dot] fr

Information source

  • Mélanie Duval
    courriel : melanie [dot] duval [at] univ-smb [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Lacustrine territories and landscapes: from plain and foothills to mountain lakes », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, https://calenda.org/559111

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