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Building resilience to water scarcity in southern Spain: a case study of rice farming in Doñana protected wetlands


Agricultural water management needs to evolve in view of increased water scarcity, especially when farming and natural protected areas are closely linked. In the study site of Doñana (southern Spain), water is shared by rice producers and a world heritage biodiversity ecosystem. Our aim is to contribute to defining adaptation strategies that may build resilience to increasing water scarcity and minimize water conflicts among agricultural and natural systems. The analytical framework links a participatory process with quantitative methods to prioritize the adaptation options. Bottom-up proposed adaptation measures are evaluated by a multi-criteria analysis (MCA) that includes both socioeconomic criteria and criteria of the ecosystem services affected by the adaptation options. Criteria weights are estimated by three different methods—analytic hierarchy process, Likert scale and equal weights—that are then compared. Finally, scores from an MCA are input into an optimization model used to determine the optimal land-use distribution in order to maximize utility and land-use diversification according to different scenarios of funds and water availability. While our results show a spectrum of perceptions of priorities among stakeholders, there is one overriding theme that is to define a way to restore part of the rice fields to natural wetlands. These results hold true under the current climate scenario and even more so under an increased water scarcity scenario.

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We acknowledge the financial support of the Spanish Biodiversity Foundation project of Adaptation in Doñana, implemented by the Spanish branch of the WWF Spain and the European Commission Animal Change project (contract no. KBBE-266018) (

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Correspondence to Ana Iglesias.

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García de Jalón, S., Iglesias, A., Cunningham, R. et al. Building resilience to water scarcity in southern Spain: a case study of rice farming in Doñana protected wetlands. Reg Environ Change 14, 1229–1242 (2014).

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  • Adaptation
  • Multi-criteria analysis
  • Ecosystem services
  • Stakeholders
  • Land-use optimization