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Groundwater decline has negatively affected the well-preserved amphibian community of Doñana National Park (SW Spain)

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posted on 2024-04-26, 08:14 authored by Carmen Díaz-Paniagua, Margarita Florencio, Miguel de Felipe, Mamen Ramírez-Soto, Isidro Román, Rosa Arribas

The success of amphibian conservation efforts is highly dependent on the preservation of amphibian breeding habitats. Doñana National Park contains an abundance of ponds with heterogeneous characteristics, which has historically favoured its amphibian community. However, most of the park’s ponds are groundwater dependent, and aquifer overexploitation outside the park is leading to shorter hydroperiods and even desiccation in the pond network. This problem has been exacerbated by the scarcity of rain over the last decade. In 2021–2022, we surveyed the occurrence of the park’s 11 amphibian species, with a view to comparing our findings with those from the last previous survey in 2003–2004. We mapped the species occurrence within the park for the two survey periods. While all 11 amphibian species could still be found in Doñana, their occurrence had decreased across the board. In 2003–2004, 6 species were present across more than 50% of the sampling area. In contrast, 18 years later, such was the case for only two species (Pelophylax perezi and Hyla meridionalis). Declines were greatest for Epidalea calamita, followed by Pelobates cultripes, Triturus pygmaeus, and Lissotriton boscai. The mean number of species per sampling unit (i.e., grid cell) dropped from 4.3 to 3.1. To preserve Doñana’s amphibian community, it is important to restore the park’s pond network, which implies reducing regional groundwater overexploitation.

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