Huelva is swallowing up coastal lagoons in Donana

Oct 07, 2009
This is the Zahillo Lagoon in Doñana National Park (Huelva). Credit: Pablo García Murillo/ SINC

A team of Spanish scientists from a variety of fields has analysed the effects of human activity on the peridunal lagoons in the Doñana National Park. Results show that the lagoons are in the process of regressing, largely due to the extraction of underground water for the Matalascañas tourist resort (Huelva). Moreover, the natural effects of the ecosystem itself are further aggravating the situation.

Botanists, limnologists and climatologists from the University of Seville (US) have developed a botanical monitoring methodology which combines botanical studies with documents from past centuries, historical maps, data on the use of the land, microrelief and recent climate trends. The aim of the study, which was published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, was to investigate the changes in the perilagoonal vegetation in Doñana and ascertain their impact.

Arturo Sousa, the main author of the study and a researcher from the Department of and Ecology at the US explained the main conclusion of the study to SINC: "The lagoons are in the process of regressing, particularly due to the extraction of underground water for the Matalascañas tourist resort, a coastal development complex that is right on the edge of the Doñana National Park, a short distance from the lagoons".

The surface and morphology of the lagoons in Doñana has changed over the last two centuries, according to the analyses of perilagoonal vegetation. The research confirms that the lagoons were reduced by 70.7% between 1920 and 1987.

The new methodology is based on the changes in perilagoonal vegetation and allows researchers to study the anthropological impact on the lagoons practically in real time, "and the possible negative effect that Global Warming may have on them in the future," the botanist adds.

Natural Effects also Negative

In the past, climate trends also had a negative impact on the lagoons in Doñana. "Before human activity in the area escalated, the lagoons had already begun a slow process of regression and desiccation linked to the advance of dunes, coinciding with the driest phases of the climate period known as the "Little Ice Age" (from the beginning of the 14th century to halfway through the 19th century), and probably also due to the start of the current process of global warming", Sousa says.

The coastal lagoons in Doñana have always been at the centre of public opinion and their conservation is of great interest. After reconstructing their evolution, the researchers confirm that the reactivation of mobile dune fronts is responsible for blocking and filling the original lagoons with sea sand. According to the experts, this could have occurred during the driest periods of the Little Ice Age in Andalusia.
"If the frequency and duration of dry periods increases, together with droughts in general, the desiccation and disappearance of lagoons could become more widespread, not only in south western Europe, but also in other Mediterranean coastal ecosystems," Sousa warns.

More information: Sousa, Arturo; García-Murillo, Pablo; Morales, Julia; García-Barrón, Leoncio. "Anthropogenic and natural effects on the coastal lagoons in the southwest of Spain (Doñana )" Ices Journal of 66(7): 1508-1514 Aug 2009.

Source: FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Explore further: Nile River monitoring influences northeast Africa's future

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study nixes hog waste alternatives

Mar 08, 2006

A $17.3 million study in North Carolina seeking alternatives to open-air ponds used to treat hog farm waste has ended without success.

Mediterranean Sea level could rise by 61 cm

Mar 04, 2009

A Spanish-British research project has come up with three future scenarios for the effects of climate change on the Mediterranean over the next 90 years, using global models from the Intergovernmental Panel ...

Recommended for you

Unforeseen dioxin formation in waste incineration

1 hour ago

Dioxins forms faster, at lower temperatures and under other conditions than previously thought. This may affect how we in the future construct sampling equipment, flue gas filtering systems for waste incineration ...

Crowdsourcing could lead to better water in rural India

2 hours ago

With more than 10 million service points, India's rural drinking water system provides a real monitoring headache for public health officials. To help address the challenge, a three-continent research consortium ...

Far more displaced by disasters than conflict

14 hours ago

Disasters last year displaced three times more people than violent conflicts, showing the urgent need to improve resilience for vulnerable people when fighting climate change, according to a study issued ...

User comments : 0