Doñana National Park, in southern Spain, is considered one of the most important wetlands in Europe.
This natural area of more than a hundred thousand hectares is a key stopover for 6 million migratory birds flying each year between Europe and Africa. It’s also home to several rare and endangered species.
The park, on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, boasts a mosaic of landscapes and ecosystems – beaches, wetlands, and dunes. But scientific studies warn that climate change is gradually turning Doñana into a desert.
“Most of Doñana’s lagoons feed on groundwater. Climate change will mean less rainfall and a decrease in water table levels. Therefore, lagoons, like the one where we stand, will have more and more trouble filling up on water each winter,” says Francisco Borja, Professor of the University of Huelva.
Environmental scientists and NGOs say shrinking water supplies, combined with over-use of groundwater by local farmers and nearby urbanization, have already caused lagoons like Charco del Toro or el Zahillo to dry up.
The more arid climate and rising sea level are also playing tricks in Doñana. While new dunes are forming and encroaching on the park’s pine woods, by the coast, where the dunes should be, they’re disappearing.
The farmlands around Doñana produce 70 percent of the strawberries grown in Spain. Add to that mining activities and a nearby golf course, and Doñana is getting very thirsty.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has warned that over 80 percent of Doñana’s marsh has been lost since the beginning of the 20th century, and it’s now only getting a fifth of the water it needs.
Global climate models predict more arid climate, a sea level that will rise up to 0,5 m towards the end of the century, and the reduction in fresh water wetlands, transforming the habitats of migratory birds and endangered species.
Only collaborative efforts by governments, local population, scientific community and environment organizations could minimize the foreseeable impact of climate change.
Video produced by Daniel González Acuña
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