Pitted against profits, Spain’s biodiversity haven collapses

Overexploited aquifer, coupled with too many dry years, sends Doñana National Park’s biodiversity into freefall.

By Kira Walker

Huelva, Spain – On a sweltering July morning, Carlos Dávila surveys the parched earth stretching out in front of him. Summers are typically dry in Doñana National Park, but this year was exceptional.

“Look at the last time it rained here properly,” he says, shaking his head. “When was it?”

Following a dry autumn, a dry winter and a spring with little rain, a summer of record heatwaves and drought engulfed Spain.

By August’s end, Doñana’s last permanent pond – which once sheltered thousands of migratory birds and harboured unique plants, fish, amphibians and insects – disappeared.

Doñana, one of Europe’s most important wetlands, is a critical wintering spot and stopover point for birds migrating between Africa and Europe.

Its mosaic of ecosystems – marshes, ponds, forests and dunes – also provides refuge for an array of aquatic, mammal and plant species, several of which are rare and threatened.

“We’re reaching, we believe, a point of no return,” says Dávila, coordinator of the Doñana technical office of environmental organisation SEO/Birdlife.

The rise of red gold

Before berries, farmers in Huelva grew olives, grapes and wheat, rain-fed crops well-adapted to the dryland environment.

In the 1980s, strawberry cultivation took off, with farmers cashing in on the higher profits earned from exporting what became known as “red gold” to Europe.

Support from EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies provided another incentive to grow berries.

“Irrigated crops receive more CAP subsidies than dryland crops that aren’t irrigated,” explained Celsa Peiteado, coordinator for WWF Spain’s food programme...

To irrigate the 11,000 hectares (27,181 acres) of berry polytunnels blanketing Huelva’s undulating hills, producers withdraw groundwater from the same aquifer feeding Doñana National Park...

Environment vs economy

Pitted against one of Huelva’s economic engines, the conservation of Doñana has always come in behind, lamented Díaz Paniagua.

Interesting Quote - “I can’t imagine Huelva without the berry industry,” said David, a 30-year-old from the village of Almonte. “It would be a dark future.”

While he "can't imagine" Huelva without the berry industry, wonder if he would be able to imagine it without water or wildlife. That would be the dark future in my book.

Read full article.

Spains wetlands are drying up heat and intense farming threaten the Donana

This is the better way to go -



In the headlines again -

Europe's most important wetland is suffocating due to a lack of water. The last freshwater lagoon in the Spanish national park of Doñana, has dried up.

Spain’s Doñana wetlands are drying up

t’s located in Andalusia, in southern Spain, and is world famous for its unique landscape and biodiversity. However, out of a total of 3,000 registered lagoons, 60% have been completely lost and are now covered by terrestrial vegetation.

As a result, animals are dying because they have nowhere to drink. Carmen Díaz, a researcher at theDoñana Biological Station, has been warning of this danger for a long time.

Read more.

Doñana National Park or Parque Nacional y Natural de Doñana is a natural reserve in Andalucía, in the provinces of Huelva (most of its territory), Cádiz (Campo) and Seville.

Spain announces 1.4 billion-euro deal to help prized Doñana wetland from drying up

Andalusia regional President Juan Moreno said farmers will receive financial incentives to stop cultivating and to reforest land in and around some 14 towns close to Doñana. He said farmers who wish to continue cultivating will receive less money but must switch to farming dry crops ecologically.

MADRID -- National and regional authorities in Spain signed an agreement Monday to invest 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in areas around the treasured national park of Doñana in a bid to stop the park from drying up.

Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said the plan was aimed at encouraging farmers to stop cultivating crops that rely heavily on water from underground aquifers that have been overexploited in recent years, damaging one of Europe’s largest wetlands.

As part of the agreement, Andalusia will cancel previously announced plans to expand irrigation near Doñana, a decision that UNESCO, the central government and ecologists criticized for putting more pressure on the aquifer.