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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.



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.

Read the full press release (Spanish)

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Lack of evolution of sexual size dimorphism in Heteromyidae (Rodentia)

Lack of evolution of sexual size dimorphism in Heteromyidae (Rodentia)

One paradoxical finding in some mammals is the presence of male–male intrasexual competition in the absence of sexual size dimorphism. It has been a major goal of evolutionary biologists for over a century to understand why some species in which large males can monopolize multiple mates while excluding smaller competitors, exhibit little or no sexual dimorphism. In this paper three of the main hypotheses that have been proposed to explain this conundrum are examined using as study case the Heteromyidae, a rodent family with subtle sexual size dimorphism. Using a phylogenetic comparative approach, the potential influence of (1) fecundity selection, (2) covariation between pre- and post-copulatory traits, and (3) environmental constraints (resource shortage) in explaining patterns of body size and sexual size dimorphism (SSD) across 62 heteromyid species are addressed. Baculum size, a proxy of the strength of post-copulatory sexual selection, and SSD were negatively correlated suggesting that heteromyid rodents balance their reproductive investment between pre- and post-copulatory traits, which may prevent the evolution of extensive SSD. Results also support a role for resource competition in moderating SSD. The amount of SSD correlated negatively with latitude. This can be explained if high productivity relaxes the level of intrasexual competition among females, leading to more male-biased dimorphism since forces acting on both sexes are not cancelled. In line with this argument, territorial species exhibited a higher dimorphism in comparison with social species. No support was found for the fecundity selection hypothesis. Overall, this study provides insight into the factors driving observed patterns of sexual dimorphism in this iconic group and highlights the need to consider a broader framework beyond sexual selection for better understanding the evolution of dimorphism in this family. García-Navas (2017) Lack of evolution of sexual size dimorphism in Heteromyidae (Rodentia): the influence of resource defense and the trade-off between pre- and post-copulatory trait investment. Evol Biol DOI:10.1007/s11692-016-9390-7