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Doñana's water quality, in danger due to intensive agriculture and a poor residual water treatment

Irene Paredes, researcher of the study

Eutrophication is a major cause of wetland degradation worldwide. In recent decades, reductions in nutrient inputs have led to improvements in water quality in many rivers and lakes in central and northern Europe, but long-term trends are less clear in southern Europe. The Doñana Biological Station conducted the first comprehensive study of water quality in Doñana, one of the most important wetland complexes in Europe and the Mediterranean region.

The core area of Doñana is a large shallow, seasonal marsh (UNESCO World Heritage Site—WHS) that floods during rainy, cool winter months, then dries out during the summer. The marsh is fed by three main streams whose catchments are within a Biosphere Reserve but are impacted by greenhouses (for cultivating fruit, irrigated with groundwater), poorly treated urban wastewaters and tourism.

From 2013 to 2016, the research team monitored nutrient and phytoplankton chlorophyll-a (chla) concentrations in surface waters of the Doñana marsh and the three main streams. They quantified changes in greenhouse cover since 1995 using satellite images. Nutrient concentrations in streams were consistently higher than in the marsh, particularly in the Partido and Rocina streams that regularly reached concentrations equivalent to a "bad physico-chemical status" under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), and whose catchments suffered a fivefold expansion of greenhouses from 1995 to 2016.

The Partido was the most polluted stream, and the most affected by wastewater effluents, and had particularly high concentrations of NH4+ and NO2? across seasons. Patterns in chla concentrations were less consistent, but streams generally had higher concentrations than the marsh. Nutrient concentrations in spot samples within the marsh largely depended on a combination of evaporation (as revealed by higher stable isotope ?2H values in the water column) and spatial processes (concentrations increase close to stream entry points, where conductivity is lower).

Anthropogenic nutrient pollution in entry streams is a serious problem in Doñana, with extensive stretches too toxic for fish. Reinforcement of policies aimed at reducing nutrient inputs to Doñana are urgently required to meet the biodiversity conservation and environmental objectives for the WHS and WFD, respectively. Paradoxically, the marsh is currently relied upon to purify the water entering from streams.

informacion[at]ebd.csic.es

Referencia: 

Paredes, I., Ramírez, F., Aragonés, D., Bravo, M.A., G. Forero, M., Green, A.J. (2021). Ongoing anthropogenic eutrophication of the catchment area threatens the Doñana World Heritage Site (South-west Spain). Wetlands Ecology and Management. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-020-09766-5

Read the full press release (Spanish)


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Dwarfism in continental populations of natterjack toads in the absence of genetic isolation

Dwarfism in continental populations of natterjack toads in the absence of genetic isolation

Ample variation in body size is common in vertebrates over extensive geographical distances, or in isolated populations, where effective geographical barriers may cause dwarfism or gigantism. The potential causes of extreme size reduction in continental populations of amphibians within a short geographical distance and in the absence of geographical barriers were studied. Natterjack toads Epidalea calamita in Doñana National Park (Spain) experience up to 2.1?fold difference in body mass in as little as 37?km. Studying six populations divergent in body size, the genetic isolation of the dwarf populations using multilocus genotypes (16 microsatellites) was tested. Additionally, it was explored whether populations differed in trophic status (through stable isotope analysis), standard metabolic rate and growth pattern, senescence and age structure (conducting telomere length assays and skeletochronology). Advertisement calls were also recorded across populations and experimentally tested for behavioural reinforcement of the body size variation through female preferences. Local dwarfism in these populations occurs in the absence of genetic isolation while maintaining relatively high effective population sizes. Dwarf populations, however, were exposed to drier and warmer climatic conditions, have different trophic status, show lower mass?specific metabolic rate, and male advertisement calls with a higher dominant frequency. Juvenile growth differed among populations, reaching the adult stage at different body sizes. Altogether, these results suggest a significant influence of environmental conditions on the physiology and ecology of the Doñana E. calamita populations, mainly affecting toads between metamorphosis and sexual maturity. Further experimental and genomic studies focusing on these early life stages are necessary to dissect the relative roles of the environment and adaptive genetic differentiation on this phenomenon. informacion[at]ebd.csci.es: Hyeun-Ji et al (2020) Dwarfism in close continental amphibian populations despite lack of genetic isolation. OIKOS Doi 10.1111/oik.07086


https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/oik.07086