Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 2469–2503 | Cite as

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

  • M. Rosario Vidal-Abarca GutiérrezEmail author
  • M. Luisa Suárez Alonso
Original Paper


By applying the framework proposed by Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, we analysed the current state and trends of 20 ecosystem services provided by Spanish rivers and riparian areas using 139 indicators. We compared the obtained results with the Europe and UK assessment. It is the first document that attempts to analyse the importance of services provided by Spanish rivers and riparian areas, and it forms part of the evaluation carried out for the Spanish Millennium Ecosystem 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, we draw some considerations on alternative models for aquatic ecosystems management which maintain aquatic ecosystem services and their biodiversity.


Ecosystem services Rivers Spain Trends Biodiversity Direct drivers 



This study has been financed by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Francisca Carreño and Javier Martinez-López are also acknowledged for their help in the databases search. Special thanks to Helen Warburton for her assistance in the English corrections. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

Supplementary material

10531_2013_532_MOESM1_ESM.doc (324 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 324 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Rosario Vidal-Abarca Gutiérrez
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Luisa Suárez Alonso
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and HydrologyUniversity of MurciaMurciaSpain

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