, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 775–785 | Cite as

Modelling Habitat Distribution of Mediterranean Coastal Wetlands: The Ebro Delta as Case Study

  • Xavier Benito
  • Rosa Trobajo
  • Carles Ibáñez
Original Research


Present-day altered distribution of the natural habitats in the Ebro Delta is consequence of intensive human settlement in the last two centuries. We developed spatial predictive models of potential natural wetland habitats of the Ebro Delta based on ecogeographical predictors and presence/pseudo-absence data for each habitat. The independent variables (i.e. elevation, distance from the coast, distance from the river and distance from the inner border) were analysed using Generalized Additive Models (GAMs). Elevation and the distance from the coast appeared as key predictors in most of the coastal habitats (coastal lagoons, sandy environments, Salicornia-type marshes and reed beds), whereas distances from the river and from the inner border were relevant in the most terrestrial or inland habitats (salt meadows, Cladium-type marshes and riparian vegetation). Our findings suggest that the most inland habitats (i.e. Cladium-type marshes, salt meadows and riparian vegetation) would have undergone a severe reduction (higher than 90 %), whereas in the most coastal habitats (coastal lagoons, sandy environments, Salicornia-type marshes) the reduction in relation to their potential distribution would be around 70 %. This modelling approach can be applied to other deltaic areas, since all them share a similar topography.


Predictive modelling Mediterranean wetlands Deltas Generalized additive models Geographic information system 



This research was supported by IRTA-URV-Santander fellowship to Xavier Benito Granell through “BRDI Trainee Research Personnel Programme funded by University of Rovira and Virgili R + D + I projects”. The work described in this publication was supported by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme through the grant to the budget of the Collaborative Project RISES-AM-, Contract FP7-ENV-2013-two-stage-603396. The Digital Elevation Model is propriety of Cartographic Institute of Catalonia ( The authors would like to thank to the IRTA technicians Lluís Jornet and David Mateu for field support. We thank also two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13157_2014_541_Fig6_ESM.gif (257 kb)
Supplementary Fig. S1 Location of the study area, the Ebro Delta, and its present-day main habitats. (GIF 257 kb)
13157_2014_541_MOESM1_ESM.tif (295 kb)
(TIFF 295 kb)
13157_2014_541_Fig7_ESM.gif (234 kb)
Supplementary Fig. S2 Map showing the potential distribution (presence/absence) of natural habitats in the Ebro Delta predicted by the models. The overlap of the habitats have been made on the basis of the explained deviance by the GAM models. (GIF 234 kb)
13157_2014_541_MOESM2_ESM.tif (249 kb)
(TIFF 249 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRTA, Aquatic Ecosystems ProgramCataloniaSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Climate Change, Geography DepUniversity Rovira i VirgiliTortosaSpain

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