Palaeoecology as a valuable source of information for restoration practices in globally endangered habitats: A case study from a Mediterranean seasonal wetland

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Saúl Manzano

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Seasonal wetlands are small, shallow water bodies that are usually waterlogged during the rainy season only. They develop as a consequence of high phreatic levels, almost exclusively in areas under Mediterranean climate. Here, they represent highly diverse habitats, delivering important environmental services such as water provisioning and purification. This is key in areas undergoing summer drought. They are globally threatened by human impact and environmental change, making their restoration a priority. Seasonal wetlands represent potential palaeoecological archives and consequently are valuable records of environmental and land-use change capable of revealing their long-term ecological history. Here, a high-resolution multi-proxy case study from a seasonal wetland in the Western Mediterranean (Doñana National Park, southwestern Spain) is presented. The palaeoecological analyses (palynological, microcharcoal, magnetic susceptibility, loss on ignition and diversity analyses) reveal the intermittent development of ~300–500-year-long wetland phases along the last ~6900 years. The development of wetlands is linked to dune immobilization during humid periods, whereas during arid periods mobile dunes cover them. This suggests that geomorphological dynamism is the baseline state for this system, ultimately controlling wetland development and biodiversity. Restoration efforts here should focus on the management of Pinus pinea, (a keystone species associated to substrate dynamism) to promote the development of landscapes capable of maintaining wetlands under the current aridification trend. In conclusion, palaeoecological reconstructions, as here exemplified, can provide a link between long-term historical data, present landscape intervention, and future scenario projection for these endangered but yet of utmost importance habitats.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration