- 1.The Doñana wetland complex (SW Spain) holds more wintering waterfowl than any other wetland in Europe.
- 2.This study focused on the use made by 12 common waterbirds (eight ducks and four waders) of the natural seasonal marshes in Doñana National Park (DNP) and the adjacent Veta la Palma (VLP) fish ponds created in the early 1990s. Data used were from aerial and terrestrial surveys collected between October and February during six consecutive winters from 1998/99 to 2003/04. Changes in distribution of each bird taxon were related to changes in the extent of flooded marshes within DNP. Up to 295 000 ducks were counted in VLP during dry periods, and up to 770 000 in DNP when it was flooded.
- 3.The timing and extent of flooding in DNP was highly variable, but there was a consistent pattern in which ducks concentrated in VLP during dry months and winters but redistributed to DNP as more of it was flooded. This refuge effect was also strong for black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa, but much less so for other waders. Waders feed mainly on invertebrates, and invertebrate biomass in VLP was found to be higher than in DNP. Ducks feed mainly on seeds and plant material, which are more abundant in DNP when flooded.
- 4.When water levels in DNP were stable over the course of a winter, or controlled for in multivariate models, the numbers of ducks at VLP declined over time, probably due to reduced availability of plant foods. In contrast, numbers of waders at VLP were more stable, and their invertebrate prey became more abundant over time, at least in the winter 2003/4.
- 5.In this extremely important wetland complex, the value of natural and artificial wetlands for wintering waterbirds are complementary, providing suitable habitat for different species and for different conditions in a highly variable Mediterranean environment.
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.