Doñana migratory cycles affected by climate change

LAST UPDATED: 7 Apr, 2009 @ 09:50
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Falling numbers of visiting geese and teal alarm scientists

HIGHER temperatures, a gradual increase in both sea levels and salinity and a drying out of the park’s famous marshes are some of the effects of climate change on one of Spain’s largest nature reserves.

The Doñana National Park, spanning 540 square kilometres of land in Sevilla and Huelva, is not only home to the Iberian lynx – the World’s rarest feline – as well as flamingos, lagoons and sand dunes but it is also an important winter home for more than 500,000 birds every year.

But scientists fear global warming has resulted in changes to the migratory patterns of the park’s 125 visiting bird species.

“Certain bird species that have traditionally wintered at Doñana, such as the common teal and goose, have seen a progressive reduction in numbers over the past four decades. This is due to the gradual increase in winter temperatures recorded at the park since around 1960,” said Andrew Green, researcher at the Biological Station of Doñana.

Meanwhile, the president of the Migratory Foundation, which is dedicated to the study of bird movement in the Strait of Gibraltar, has warned Europe risks losing great numbers of visiting aquatic birds,.

“The phenomenon of long distance migration is in serious danger of disappearing due to climate change,” Miguel Ferrer said at the European Summit of Biodiversity and Global Change in Sevilla.

Ferrer, who is the former director of the Biological Station of Doñana, also called for specific, intensive studies of the effects of Global Warming on the Strait of Gibraltar and hinterland.

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