More than 50 scientists meet in Seville to create an Iberian observatory that will provide new data and tools to help preserve the health of rivers and mitigate the effects of climatic change. The meeting, which was hosted on the 21st and 22nd of March in the Doñana Biological Station – CSIC, gathered researchers from Spanish, Portuguese, and French research centers and people in charge of water resources management in watersheds.
More than half of Iberian rivers are degraded by water contamination and the presence of invasive species. It is expected that droughts and increasing temperatures due to climatic change worse the health of freshwaters. This first meeting was the first step to launch the Iberian Rivers Observatory and put the bases to a new way of assessing the health of rivers in the Iberian Peninsula.
On this matter, this project will combine the experience of taxonomists and the use of molecular tools that will allow a unique characterization of the Iberian river's biodiversity, including microbes, algae, invertebrates, fish, and birds. In addition, another team will measure the ecological functions provided by rivers, such as fish production, water depuration, or climatic regulation.
"It is a novel and unique project. It will be one of the first large-scale observatories that will allow understanding how the climatic change and other human impacts can affect the health of rivers and the benefits provided to society", says Cayetano Gutiérrez Cánovas, a researcher at the Doñana Biological Station- CSIC and coordinator of this new observatory.
This observatory contemplates six study areas reaching the different climatic areas of the Iberian Peninsula – from the arid zones in the South until the Cantabrian Range in the North- in which annual monitoring will be carried out to understand the long-term dynamics of river ecosystems.
"Improving the health of rivers has a direct impact on the people's health and well-being, and economy. We can not forget either that it is a legal imperative as a result of the application of the Water Framework Directive. Our idea is that healthy rivers, with more biodiversity, will attract more tourists to rural areas since they will have more quality to bath and more fish. In addition, if we improve the health of our rivers, the costs of depuration and purification may reduce and help mitigate floods and heatwaves", explains Gutiérrez.