Which are, what is their status and what can we expect from ecosystem services provided by Spanish rivers and riparian areas?

By applying the framework proposed by Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, it was analysed the current state and trends of 20 ecosystem services provided by Spanish rivers and riparian areas using 139 indicators. The obtained results were compared with the Europe and UK assessment. Among the provisioning services, freshwater, hydropower energy and genetic resources were classified as high importance, and water regulation and self-purification capacity, and natural hazard mitigation are among the regulating services, with landscape-aesthetic values and recreation and ecotourism featuring among the cultural services. About 61 % of the assessed ecosystem services are currently declining or degrading, but are higher than the percentage calculated for Europe (45 %) or for the UK (53 %). All regulating services are degrading, especially water regulation, natural hazard mitigation, soil formation and fertility and biological control, and the cultural services related to rural populations. Likewise, the biodiversity of Spanish aquatic ecosystems is decreasing rapidly. Land use changes and overexploitation of biological and mineral raw materials have been the main direct drivers of change in Spanish rivers and riparian zones, and relate directly to increase urbanised areas and irrigated agriculture. Finally, researchers draw some considerations on alternative models for aquatic ecosystems management which maintain aquatic ecosystem services and their biodiversity.

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