Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 73–88 | Cite as

The use of changes in small coastal Atlantic brooks in southwestern Europe as indicators of anthropogenic and climatic impacts over the last 400 years

  • Arturo Sousa
  • Leoncio García-Barrón
  • Pablo García-Murillo
  • Mark Vetter
  • Julia Morales
Original paper


Unlike other aquatic continental ecosystems such as lakes, small coastal brooks have not been used as indicators of anthropogenic or climatic impacts. Our study addresses reconstructing the evolution of coastal brooks in the southwest of Spain from the early seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century using fieldwork, remote sensing, historical sources and microrelief. These brooks have had a continuous regression, losing 84.7 % of their length since 1630 AD. From the seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, climatic factors were responsible for the filling and siltation of the thalweg of brooks with sandy sediments of eolian origin. The alternation of dry and humid periods during the Little Ice Age in southern Spain favoured the mobilisation of sandy sediments in a process of secondary dunification, which was initiated during the eighteenth century and prominent at the end of the Little Ice Age. This process has coincided with a loss of water availability or an increase of aridity in some lakes and lagoons of southwestern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. However, during the second half of the twentieth century, the average annual rate of thalweg regression almost quadrupled to 432.2 m year−1 mainly due to anthropogenic impacts associated with logging. These changes coincide with the mobilisation of sandy sediment and the erosion of coastal brooks in southwestern Portugal and other continental aquatic ecosystems in southwestern Spain. Therefore, we believe that changes in small coastal brooks can be used as indicators of anthropogenic and climatic impacts and, in the future, as sentinels to study the effects of climatic change just as lakes, reservoirs and rivers are considered.


Brook Late Holocene Paleohydrology Little Ice Age Human impact SW Europe 



The authors are grateful to the Doñana Natural Park management for providing access to the study area, to Carola Pérez-Porras for helping with fieldwork and to the Andalusian Institute of Cartography. This study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness Project CGL2009-10683 and also by the Project 158-2010. Finally, we thank the anonymous reviewers their comments to improve our manuscript.

Supplementary material

10933_2014_9809_MOESM1_ESM.doc (857 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 857 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arturo Sousa
    • 1
  • Leoncio García-Barrón
    • 2
  • Pablo García-Murillo
    • 1
  • Mark Vetter
    • 3
  • Julia Morales
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Vegetal y EcologíaUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Física Aplicada IIUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Faculty of Informationmanagement and MediaKarlsruhe University of Applied SciencesKarlsruheGermany

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