The Daimiel wetlands, known as Las Tablas de Daimiel, are at a critical juncture as they mark their 50th year as a national park. This natural wonder, a symbol of Castilla La Mancha Húmeda biosphere reserve, has been steadily deteriorating over the years due to poor water management, with overexploitation driven primarily by agricultural irrigation.
Over exploitation of water
The overexploitation of water for agricultural purposes has transformed the Tablas de Daimiel into one of Europe’s most threatened aquatic ecosystems. The modern agri-food model, which prioritizes high production rates, has placed immense pressure on our limited water resources, particularly in arid regions like Castilla-La Mancha. As a consequence, what was once a flourishing wetland teeming with biodiversity has become an arid expanse.
The urgent plea for water transfer
In response to this dire situation, more than 500 researchers banded together last spring to issue a manifesto. This plea called for the transfer of 17 cubic hectometers of water from the Tajo-Segura transfer to support both the fragile ecosystem and essential irrigation needs. However, as of now, this plea has gone unanswered, and the wetlands continue to suffer.
The menace of peat fires and measures to quell the flames
One immediate consequence of water scarcity is the increased risk of peat combustion fires, a threat that has already happened 14 years ago. These fires result from the contraction of peat deposits, composed of partially decomposed organic material accumulated over time in wetlands, due to high temperatures. This contraction creates deep cracks through which air infiltrates, oxidizing the organic matter and sparking fires that spread through the subsoil.
In 2009, alarmed by the risk of peat fires, several measures were taken to address the situation. Among them was the expedited completion of the “Manchega Pipeline”, designed to supply water from the Tagus to 15 municipalities in La Mancha for human consumption. However, its reliance on rainfall to function adequately was a temporary fix that failed to address the root issue.
The imperative for change
The scientific community emphasizes that the overextraction of water has pushed the wetland to a critical point. Relying solely on sporadic rainfall is no longer sufficient. If the current trajectory continues, the Daimiel wetlands risk losing their natural resilience and becoming nothing more than water storage ponds for other regions, provided such water resources become available. Urgent and sustainable measures are imperative to safeguard the future of this unique ecosystem.
The Tablas de Daimiel national park
The Tablas de Daimiel national park is a renowned natural reserve located in La Mancha, Spain. It is celebrated for its unique and diverse ecosystem, which includes wetlands, lagoons, and marshes. The park is situated in the region of Castilla-La Mancha and is considered a biosphere reserve.
Key features of the Tablas de Daimiel national park include
- Wetland Biodiversity: The park is known for its rich and varied biodiversity, housing a wide range of aquatic and bird species. It serves as a critical stopover and breeding ground for numerous migratory birds, making it a significant area for birdwatching and ecological research.
- Hydrological Importance: The park’s wetlands are nourished by the confluence of two rivers, the Guadiana and Gigüela, which play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem. These waters are essential for the survival of the park’s plant and animal life.
- Environmental Challenges: Overexploitation of water for agricultural purposes has posed a severe threat to the wetlands. This overuse has led to the depletion of the park’s water resources, causing the once-thriving wetland to become severely degraded and arid.
- Conservation Efforts: Scientists, environmentalists, and authorities have been working to address the ecological challenges faced by the Tablas de Daimiel National Park. They have called for water transfers and other measures to help revive and conserve this unique ecosystem.
- Tourism and Education: The park is a popular destination for eco-tourism, attracting visitors interested in nature and birdwatching. It also serves as an educational resource, providing opportunities for environmental education and research.
Read more here about The Tablas de Daimiel National Park: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/tablas-de-daimiel-national-park/
Watch the full documentary on RTVE “el escarabajo verde” program (in Spanish) here: https://www.rtve.es/television/20231009/tablas-daimiel-crisis-ambiental/2457434.shtml
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