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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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Predictors of pollinator service

Predictors of pollinator service

Pollinator service is essential for successful sexual reproduction and long-term population persistence of animal-pollinated plants, and innumerable studies have shown that insufficient service by pollinators results in impaired sexual reproduction ("pollen limitation"). Studies directly addressing the predictors of variation in pollinator service across species or habitats remain comparatively scarce, which limits our understanding of the primary causes of natural variation in pollen limitation. This paper evaluates the importance of pollination-related features, evolutionary history and environment as predictors of pollinator service in a large sample of plant species from undisturbed montane habitats in southeastern Spain. Quantitative data on pollinator visitation were obtained for 191 insect-pollinated species belonging to 142 genera in 43 families, and the predictive values of simple floral traits (perianth type, class of pollinator visitation unit, and visitation unit dry mass), phylogeny, and habitat type were assessed. A total of 24,866 pollinator censuses accounting for 5,414,856 flower-min of observation were conducted on 510 different dates. Flowering patch and single flower visitation probabilities by all pollinators combined were significantly predicted by the combined effects of perianth type (open vs. restricted), class of visitation unit (single flower vs. flower packet), mass of visitation unit, phylogenetic relationships, and habitat type. Pollinator composition at insect order level varied extensively among plant species, largely reflecting the contrasting visitation responses of Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (bees) and Lepidoptera (butterflies) to variation in floral traits. For example, Lepidoptera responded positively to increasing mass of visitation unit in species with flowers packets, but negatively in species with single flowers and restrictive perianths. Pollinator composition had a strong phylogenetic component, and the distribution of phylogenetic autocorrelation hotspots of visitation rates across the plant phylogeny differed widely among insect orders. Habitat type was a key predictor of pollinator composition, as major insect orders exhibited decoupled variation across habitat types in visitation rates. Comprehensive pollinator sampling of a regional plant community has shown that pollinator visitation and composition can be parsimoniously predicted by a combination of simple floral features, habitat type and evolutionary history. Ambitious community-level studies can help to formulate novel hypotheses and questions, shed fresh light on long-standing controversies in pollination research (e.g., "pollination syndromes"), and identify methodological cautions that should be considered in pollination community studies dealing with small, phylogenetically-biased plant species samples. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Herrera (2019) Flower traits, habitat, and phylogeny as predictors of pollinator service: a plant community perspective. Ecol Monographs DOI 10.1002/ecm.1402


https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecm.1402