The Doñana National Park (537 km2) in Spain, is a protected area since 1969. Currently it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (since1980), a Ramsar Site (1982), a Natural World Heritage Site (1984) and it is integrated in the Natura 2000 network, which also includes the surrounding Natural Park with a similar extent. It contains one of the the largest wetland in Western Europe (García and Marín 2005), an intricate matrix of marshes (270 km2), phreatic lagoons, and a 25 km-long coastal dune ecosystem with its shoreline and representative Mediterranean terrestrial plant communities (around 100 km2; Diaz-Delgado 2010).
Conservation objectives include the preservation of (a) critically endangered species like the Iberian lynx Lynx pardina, the Spanish imperial eagle Aquila adalberti, and the marbled teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, (b) the diversity of breeding and wintering waterbirds, and (c) the wetlands and terrestrial ecosystems. Furthermore, Doñana is both a critical stopover site for Palearctic birds migrating to Africa and an important overwintering site for waterbirds.
Doñana marshes have a typical Mediterranean climate. Average rainfall is 549mm (range: 169.8–1027.8, N=35 years). Average minimum temperature during the coldest month (January) is 4.6ºC, and average maximum temperature in the warmest month (July) is 32.6ºC. The hydrological cycle starts in September and usually reaches maximum flood levels during February, driven by the rainfall regime. In late spring, evaporation becomes the most important factor in the water balance, and the marshes dry up slowly by the end of July. At this time, the aquifer plays a central role in maintaining water levels and permanent lagoons (Grimalt et al. 1999). As is the case for most continental wetlands, interannual variability is driven by meteorological patterns.
Since the very beginning, in Doñana conservation was strongly linked to research, promoting the systematic collection of data on relevant conservation variables, such as waterfowl counts (aerial and terrestrial), Iberian lynx population size and distribution, bird banding or cork oak inventory and marking (Solís 1996). As a consequence, local staff working at Doñana began to focus systematically on understanding the most relevant species present in the National Park, with staff and visitors keeping field diaries to record both occasional events and daily field work. In 2006 Doñana joined ALTERNet (A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network) that aimed to establish a lasting infrastructure for integrated ecosystem research. Doñana became LTER site in 2007. This change from local conservation and management to international long-term monitoring imposes the reorganization of monitoring activities into a proper Environmental Monitoring Program aiming to gather reliable information supporting management actions in the National Park.
Ground water exploitation for agricultural and recreational activities in the surroundings of the Park is one of the mayor conservations issues, both affecting the amount and quality of the water available. Another important conservation issue is the bad condition of the main prey for large predators (raptors and mammals), the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), due to recurrent diseases affecting this species since the early 90's. Herbivory of both wild and domestic animals is limiting natural regeneration of tree and scrub and might locally affect endangered plant species. A factor affecting the area is the presence of invasive species, like the American Cray fish, the aquatic fern Azolla filiculoides, several exotic fish species, infestations like Phythophthera (affecting cork oaks), etc. Finally, the isolated position of the Park, surrounded by agricultural areas, a highway, Seville city and the Guadalquivir River, creates dispersal problems for many terrestrial vertebrates. A connexion with northern natural areas has been partially created along the Guadiamar river, but needs to be extended in order to become efficient.
Table of ecosystem services/functions and available data
Diaz-Delgado, R. 2010. An Integrated Monitoring Programme for Doñana Natural Space: The set-up and Implementation in: Conservation Monitoring in Freshwater Habitats: A Practical Guide and Case Studies. Hurford, Clive; Schneider, Michael; Cowx, Ian (Eds.) Pp. 375-386. Springer. DOI. 10.1007/978-1-4020-9278-7_28.
García Novo F, Marín Cabrera C (2005) Doñana: Agua y Biosfera. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Sevilla, 354 pp (in Spanish).
Grimalt JO, Ferrer M, Macpherson E (1999) The mine tailing accident in Aznalcollar. Sci Total Environ 242:3–11
Solís JC (1996) Plan de ordenación del alcornocal de Doñana. Doñana Biological Station, unpublished report, 80 pp (in Spanish).
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Click here for more information on the Doñana Biological Station.