Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 501–522 | Cite as

When dynamism is the baseline: long-term ecology of a Mediterranean seasonal wetland in the Doñana National Park (Southwestern Europe)

  • Saúl ManzanoEmail author
  • José S. Carrión
  • Pablo García-Murillo
  • Lourdes López-Merino
Original Paper


Mediterranean seasonal wetlands are amongst the world’s most endangered ecosystems. Although seasonal wetlands’ conservation is a European continental-scale priority, their long-term ecological dynamics are not well known, hampering the detection of baseline conditions. However, a long-term ecological viewpoint could aid in the detection of spatiotemporal factors controlling wetland development. We have applied a multi-proxy palaeoecological approach (palynological, microcharcoal, magnetic susceptibility, loss on ignition and diversity estimates analyses) on a 360-cm core retrieved from the El Sopetón (ElSo), a temporary wetland nested between dunes in the paradigmatic Doñana coastal area. The palaeoecological analyses reveal ~ 300–500-year-long wetland phases linked to dune immobilisation during humid periods. During the first wetland phase (AD ~ 40–315), upland and wetland vegetation diversity dynamics follow opposite trends owing to the different effect that dune proliferation had on them. Fixed dune landscapes provided upland spatial diversification, while they promoted a longer hydro-period in ElSo, simplifying wetland vegetation. During the second wetland phase (AD ~ 1550–2012), land-use change drove environmental dynamics. The mid-eighteenth-century pine afforestation to fix moving dunes marked an environmental tipping point, with the ElSo wetland transitioning from seasonal to permanent. This translated into a rising trend in upland diversity and a decreasing trend in the wetland one. Despite the recent pine afforestation, the palaeoecological findings evidence the autochthonous character of Pinus pinea, as well as the naturalness of the wetland species Hydrocharis morsus-ranae and Ricciocarpos natans. The geomorphological dynamism of the diverse Doñana coastal setting is the baseline for the area, modulating wetland-upland water connectivity and, ultimately, controlling biodiversity trends. The preservation of Doñana natural dynamism and landscape heterogeneity should be considered for the management, conservation and restoration of its seasonal wetlands.


3170* habitat Baseline Holocene Iberian Peninsula Land-use change Palaeoecology Palynology Priority habitat Wetland conservation 



We thank the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino, Organismo Autónomo de Parques Nacionales (Grant Number 261-2011), Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Grant Numbers CGL-BOS-2012-34717 and CGL-BOS 2015-68604), and Fundación Séneca (Grant Number 19434/PI/14) for funding this research. S. Manzano was supported by an FPI scholarship (BES-2013-064626). M. Munuera and S. Fernández assisted with fieldwork and core subsampling. A. Megías-Bas, J. Muñoz-Ruiz, V. Selma and M.D. Ortiz-Vidal contributed to the development of life art. This paper benefitted greatly from the comments of two anonymous referees.

Author contributions

JSC designed the outlay of this investigation and carried out preliminary fieldwork. JSC, PGM and SM participated in the site coring. Laboratory analyses were conducted by SM. LLM conducted numerical analyses. SM wrote the first draft of this article to which all authors, especially LLM, have revised and contributed to. The final version of the manuscript is the result of the collaboration of the four authors.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1674_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (16.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 16510 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saúl Manzano
    • 1
    Email author
  • José S. Carrión
    • 1
  • Pablo García-Murillo
    • 2
  • Lourdes López-Merino
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of MurciaMurciaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Institute of Environment, Health and SocietiesBrunel University LondonUxbridgeUK

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