The Mediterranean wetlands are unique in biological diversity and provide multiple benefits, constituting a great water reserve for the planet and producing biomass and nutrients for the trophic chain. However, the increasing human impact and socio-economic development in recent decades have caused important losses in these ecosystems. This work was carried out in the Natural Park of L’Albufera (Valencia, Spain), which includes a coastal lagoon, marshlands, dunes and pinewoods, surrounded by rice fields and orchard in its non-urbanized part. Despite this great ecological value, it suffers impacts derived from the high human and industrial occupation and the hydrological contributions of the connected irrigation systems. The study focused on the development of a combined methodology, based on environmental forensics principles, with the aim of identifying the presence, flow paths and spatial distribution of illicit drugs entering the Natural Park. It is organized around two major procedures: analysis of 16 water samples and application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) integrating different sources and data formats, as analysis of 14 drugs of abuse by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry techniques, and social and environmental data in either GIS layers or tabular digital formats. Results show that, at present, most analyzed drugs have been identified in all sample points. Besides the population distribution pattern, the traditional irrigation system connected to sewage treatment plant (STP) locations is the way by which illicit substances are introduced into the Natural Park waters.
Emerging contaminants Drugs of abuse Environmental forensics Water quality Urbanization Mediterranean marshlands
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This work was carried out in the scope of project HUCOMED CGL2008-01693/BTE, CTQ2010-16448 and project GCL2007-66687-C02-01/BOS, all financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.
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