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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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For a better production, agriculture areas need to recover at least 20% of natural habitat

For a better production, agriculture areas need to recover at least 20% of natural habitat

International agreements aim to conserve 17% of Earth's land area by 2020 but include no area-based conservation targets within the working landscapes that support human needs through farming, ranching, and forestry. Through a review of country-level legislation, this study found that just 38% of countries have minimum area requirements for conserving native habitats within working landscapes. The study argues for increasing native habitats to at least 20% of working landscape area where it is below this minimum. Such target has benefits for food security, nature's contributions to people, and the connectivity and effectiveness of protected area networks in biomes in which protected areas are underrepresented. Other urgings of the review include maintaining native habitat at higher levels where it currently exceeds the 20% minimum, and a literature review shows that even more than 50% native habitat restoration is needed in particular landscapes. Including a >20% native habitats within working landscapes restoration target offers an unrivaled opportunity to simultaneously enhance biodiversity, food security and quality of life. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is an opportune moment to include a minimum habitat restoration target for working landscapes that contributes to, but does not compete with, initiatives for expanding protected areas, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Garibaldi et al (2020) Working landscapes need at least 20% native habitat. Conserv Letter DOI: 10.1111/conl.12773


https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/conl.12773