MAIN PURPOSE: Climate and land use change, biodiversity, water quality, ecology.

ECOSYSTEM TYPE: Shrubland, wood-land, riparian zones, rice fields, marshland, lagoons, rivers, shoreline, dunes.

EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENTS: Ecological restoration of wetlands under different physical conditions.

LOCALISATION: 36.95481076070108 -6.3594818115234375

FACILITIES: The setup and implementation of the infrastructure was driven by 2 major goals:

  • To supply communication infrastructure and technological equipment to the Doñana Natural Space in order to improve and standardize the existing long term ecological monitoring programme granting data quality and access;
  • Offer to the European scientific community open access to the Doñana infrastructure in order to increase the knowledge on Doñana ecosystems and species, as a reference for global change processes.

The integrated monitoring program includes more than 80 standardised and scientifically supervised methodological protocols (for many of these, data have been collected since the early seventies) producing up-to-date results on biodiversity status and trends in natural processes. Doñana’s many major ecosystems, including, shoreline, dunar system, marshlands, river estuary, aquifer lagoons and Mediterranean shrublands and wood-lands are fully covered by both traditional manual, automatic monitoring protocols and devices.
During the period 2011-2013, the Doñana HIOS enlarged its infrastructure by incorporating 2 new eddy covariance towers in 2 different ecosystems, on marshlands and on Erica scoparia shrublands. Additional instruments on the Erica shrublands tower measure environmental parameters such as radiation and soil moisture. Also, 2 new airborne hyperspectral campaigns were carried out, funded by the HYDRA Research Project (MICINN CGL2009-09801). Such campaigns collect aerial images of the whole Doñana Natural Space (100 000ha) with CASI and AHS hyperspectral sensors covering the full optical and thermal spectral range. The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA) performed the airborne campaigns and the geometric correction of the images. Hyperspectral images like these allow us to map the distribution of alien species such as the aquatic fern Azolla filiculoides, or to map the distribution of plant communities, including aquatic plants. In the last one, an experiment was carried out on artificial targets to test radiometric performance of both sensors over the different Doñana land covers.

CONTACT: R. DIAZ-DELGADO (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information on last-ebd website.

●  Pugnetti, A., Mirtl, M. and Díaz-Delgado, R. 2012. Harmonious methods. International Innovation 13:12–14.
●  Díaz-Delgado, R., Ameztoy, I., Cristobal, J. & Bustamante, J. (2010a) Long time series of Landsat images to reconstruct river surface temperature and turbidity regimes of Guadalquivir estuary. Proceedings of the  2010 IEEE International Geoscience & Remote Sensing Symposium on Remote Sensing (IGARSS2010) Geosciences and Remote Sensing Society.


TA PROJECTS: Spatio-temporal vegetation signals of global change in Doñana wetland forests (WETFORSIG).

TA User (visit): Patricia María Rodríguez-González, Centro de Estudos Florestais, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal (July, 2014 - 18 days).
Project Description: Doñana harbours the largest ibero-atlantic wetland forest under Mediterranean climate. Owing to its tight dependence of hydrologic regime, monitoring riparian plant communities is key, not only to track biological responses to local and global environmental changes but also to identify early warning signals of prospective changes in the ecosystem functioning which might affect other species and habitats. In 2002 we started a landscape scale monitoring protocol of riparian vegetation at Arroyo de la Rocina, Soto Chico and Soto Grande, using Landsat TM remote sensing of vegetation. In 2004, the project added a permanent plot network where community (species composition, structure) and environmental data are being recorded in the field every five years. In parallel, we are studying the spatial patterns of functional and phylogenetic herbaceous diversity across environmental gradients and the dendroecology of the main tree species.
Preliminary results of the Normalized Vegetation Difference Index (NDVI) through time revealed shifts in the riparian cover and suggest species-specific temporal signatures for the dominant trees. At the local scale (permanent plots), our data indicate increasing senescence of wetland population structure in la Rocina, associated to the particular persistence strategy maintained by the dominant trees (Salix). Our results so far give rise to new questions about the importance of the hydrologic dynamics, the regeneration patterns and the demogenetic structure of these forest populations if we are to understand their driving processes and to preserve their viability on the long term. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to keep up the riparian vegetation monitoring protocol in the long term, maintaining the remote sensing approach combined with the field sampling.
The general objectives of the research are characterizing the spatial and temporal variation trends in the community structure and in the ecophysiological processes occurring in Southern European wetland forests and to identify indicators of the whole ecosystem vulnerability.
Specifically the present proposal aims at:

  • Performing a field validation of the preliminary temporal signatures of NDVI variation identified with Landsat TM images for the main tree species.
  • Developing and testing a sampling design for the intermediate scale remote sensing of vegetation across the Doñana wetland forests, using the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) recently acquired by LAST-EBD.
  • Carrying out the quinquennial sampling protocol of community composition and structure in the established network of permanent plots, to integrate the 2014 data with the 2004 and 2010 samplings and afterwards, combine the field with the remote sensing results.
  • Exploring and tracking plant community responses and functional relationships of trees to environmental change.
  • Reinforcing and enlarging the collaboration with local researchers in the long-term monitoring program development (Natural Processes Monitoring Team, LAST, LEM).

Functional and physiological divergence in lizards (LIZARUN).

TA User (visit): Antigoni Kaliontzopoulou, CIBIO/InBio, University of Porto, Portugal (October, 2013 – 11 days).
Project Description: Whole-organism performance, the ability of an organism to perform ecologically relevant tasks, is central to our understanding of how selection has shaped the morphological and ecological traits of animal species and, ultimately, the diversity we observe in different groups. Classic examples of whole-organism performance traits include bite force and locomotor capacity, which are relevant for basic ecological functions, such as prey capture, escape from predators, territory acquisition and habitat use. As such, they are directly linked to individual fitness and are under strong effects of both natural and sexual selection (Irschick 2003). A different, but tightly associated, type of performance traits encompasses physiological functions, such as body temperature and hormones. Both types of performance traits are highly integrated, as the interplay between physiology, morphology and behaviour defines individual functional potential and consequently fitness. While the above aspects of performance have received extensive attention, their relative influence on species activity and distribution patterns have been less explored. In the proposed study we will conjunctively study physiological and functional performance traits in three lizards from two different genera (Podarcis and Tarentola) with similar habitat requirements, but radically different thermal and activity patterns in order to compare the relative contribution of these traits in determining temporal and microspatial segregation between species. Specifically, we will measure bite force, locomotor performance, selected temperature and water loss rates and we will compare these traits across species. Additionally, we will examine if pairs of species with different activity patterns and ecological requirements are more differentiated in terms of functional or physiological performance, to obtain insight into the contribution of each set of traits in determining temporal and spatial segregation.
The project team has already performed similar experiments in previous occasions and all the necessary instrumentation is available in our research center. However, access to the Reserva Biológica de Doñana is essential for this project because the Doñana NP constitutes the center of geographic overlap between these three species. Further, previous investigation in this are facilitates data collection and provides the basis for the successful development of the project.
The data obtained will be presented in international conferences and integrated with other data that is being collected by the project team on the Podarcis hispanica and Tarentola mauritanica species complexes to be published in international journals.
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Habitat use by a threatened long-distance migrant the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa.

TA User (visit): Theunis Piersma, University of Groningen, The Netherlands (September, 2013 – 2 weeks).
Project Description: Doñana is a key stopover and wintering site for many waterbirds breeding in Europe. In addition to the seasonal natural marshes in Doñana, man-made ecosystems like rice fields, fish farms and salt pans provide alternative or complementary habitats that are used by migratory birds. Many species depend on this wetland and any loss or degradation could reduce waterbird populations in Europe considerably. The Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa is a long-distance migrant that is present in Doñana during the whole non-breeding period, especially during the winter season. Since the continental population has declined with more than 50%, much research has focused on the breeding ecology in the main breeding sites in The Netherlands. However, little is known regarding the ecology of the species during the winter. Most individuals winter in West Africa mainly in the wetlands and rice fields of Guinea-Bissau, but our recent studies have concluded that the number of birds wintering in Doñana has increased in the last decades. This positive trend of the population may be associated to the man-made habitat and could mitigate the negative effect of wetland loss and degradation in their large-scale geographical distribution. Consequently, knowledge about the habitat use of the species in Doñana is urgently needed given the importance of the area for the global conservation of the species.
Our main objective in this project is to carry out a survey to evaluate the importance of Doñana wetlands as a staging site for the threatened Black-tailed Godwit during the non-breeding period. In particular, we want to quantify the dependence of birds on the different natural and man-made habitats present in Doñana. The data of the habitat use of the Black-tailed godwit in Doñana will be collected from August 2013 to February 2014, based on UvA-bits transmitters and colour-ringed birds that have been previously captured at their breeding site. UvA-Bits was developed at the University of Amsterdam ( and allows for the precise tracking of transmitter-carrying individuals within a landscape as well as an accelerometer that allows for the continuous logging of feeding movements. This system will be able to track bird movement and behaviour in space and time, allowing to record at the same time field data on habitat use. In addition, as resource availability is one of the most important factors that determine the use of a wintering site we will also identify the main resources exploited by the birds in the different habitats. We expect to contribute relevant information to understand how man-made and natural habitats in southern Europe contribute to the conservation of Black-tailed godwits during the winter.

Improving Doñana’s contribution to BCE (ButterflyDoñana).

TA User (visit): Irma Wynhoff, De Vlinderstichting - Dutch Butterfly Conservation, The Netherlands (April, 2013).
Project Description: The Mediterranean Basin is suggested as a model region for Global Change research in many aspects, particularly in relation to the importance of changes in the use of natural resources within ecosystems. The exceptional levels of biodiversity in the Mediterranean and the anticipated consequences of its possible reduction justify the high priority given to the issue of interactions between Global Change factors and biodiversity in this region. Such an important problem as Global Change demands concerted political action at the international level. In this context, the role of researchers should be to provide unbiased information on how biological systems react in a changing environment and what this means for the future. What is at stake is not only biodiversity conservation targeted at a species by species level, but the conservation of ecological networks and the processes and services they support, which will ultimately determine the long-term survival of all species.
Climate change is one of the major threats to butterflies in Europe. Butterfly communities react to climate change by changing their composition, where warmth-loving species become more abundant and cool species decline (pdf). In order to conserve butterflies and target scarce resources, it is vital to have data on species distribution and trends from as many important sites from the North to the South and from the West to the East in the whole of Europe. In addition, monitoring data are used for policy relevant indicators, such as the butterfly grassland indicator and the butterfly climate change indicator (pdf). In the Doñana National Park in southern Spain, butterfly monitoring has been conducted since 2005, but integration of these data into the Butterfly Conservation Europe Network has not yet been achieved. At the same time, although contacts have been established, at a national scale butterfly monitoring is conducted mainly in autonomous regions, without a recognized framework for connecting data among regions. With this project, we aim to improve the cohesion of monitoring data collected in Doñana, facilitating its incorporation in national and international frameworks. This will be done in collaboration with the Monitoring team of the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) and the main representatives of the existing networks for Butterfly Monitoring in Spain. The ultimate goal will be the supervision of a renewed version of the monitoring protocol of butterflies in Doñana (Spanish and English), identifying the integrative network in which the monitoring work will be conducted in the future. This protocol will be published on the EBD-CSIC website and on the BCE website. Integration of monitoring data from the southernmost regions in Spain into the framework of BCE will extend and improve the butterfly indicators in the future.
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Remote sensing of surface fluxes (Fluxres).

TA User (visit): Monica Garcia Garcia, University of Copenhagen, DENMARK (September, 2011).
Project Description: This proposal is focused within a broader framework to improve our understanding of the variability in energy fluxes in Mediterranean ecosystems.
We aim to provide spatial estimates of water and carbon fluxes from different ecosystems in the Doñana National park and compare them with some of the available field instrumentation.
The ExpeER program will facilitate the collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, the Conservation Biology group and the ICTS from the Estacion Biologica de Doñana (CSIC). We plan to have a week of field work at Doñana to (i) set up four sap flow sensors in the shrublands ecosystem, and (ii) measure LAI (Leaf Area Index) transects at the shrublands ecosystems using a LAI-2000 (Licor instruments). The LAI measurements are necessary to calculate the total plant transpiration from the sap-flow information. We will also compare the measured LAI with the fraction of solar intercepted radiation from pyranometers, to explore the possibilities of measuring LAI and fPAR (Fraction of Absorbed Phothosyntethetic Active Radiation) in a continuous fashion, as we have pyranometers located above- and below canopy at the shrubland site.
We will also organize the experimental design for performing future scintillometer measurements, in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, over the shrublands and wetlands during fall and spring. The objective is to measure the sensible heat flux with the scintillometer, which allows evapotranspiration to be estimated at the shrublands and wetlands, where eddy covariance data are not available yet.