Doñana National Park World Heritage Site
Parc national de Doñana, Spain
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Doñana National Park is a natural reserve in Andalusia, southern Spain, in the provinces of Huelva and Seville. It covers 543 km2 (209.65 sq mi), of which 135 km2 (52.12 sq mi) are a protected area. The park is an area of marsh, shallow streams, and sand dunes in Las Marismas, the Guadalquivir River Delta region where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It was established as a nature reserve in 1969 when the World Wildlife Fund joined with the Spanish government and purchased a section of marshes to protect it. There has been a constant threat to the eco-system, that of drainage of the marshes, the use of river water to boost agricultural production by irrigating land along the coast, and the expansion of tourist facilities.
In 1989 the surroundings of the national park were given more protection when a buffer zone was declared a natural park under the management of the regional government. The two parks, national and natural, have since been classified as a single natural landscape.
In 1994 UNESCO designated the park a World Heritage Site. UNESCO has also recognised the park as a Biosphere reserve. It is a wetland of international importance on the list of the Ramsar Convention.
The park has a biodiversity that is unique in Europe, although there are some similarities to the Camargue, with which Doñana is twinned. Doñana contains a great variety of ecosystems and shelters wildlife including thousands of European and African migratory birds, fallow deer, Spanish red deer, wild boar, European badger, Egyptian mongoose, and endangered species such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle and Iberian Lynx.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, a herd of feral dromedaries roamed the area. They may have been introduced during the Moorish Conquest of Spain in the 8th century, or they may have escaped from a herd introduced by the Marquis de Molina as beasts of burden in 1829. By the 1950s, there were only eight individuals left, and these were threatened by poachers.
The park is used by pilgrims participating in the Romería de El Rocío. As this event is attracting a million pilgrims annually, it can have a negative impact on the park's eco-system.
The park and its highly sensitive ecology were threatened in 1998 by a massive spill of metallic waste from a reservoir at the Aznalcollar mine into the Guadiamar River, which flows through the park; however, the spill was diverted into the Guadalquivir River, reprieving the park.
In 2007, the World Wildlife Fund warned that strawberry farms surrounding the park, where 95% of Spanish strawberries were produced, threatened to cause catastrophic damage to the park by depleting the surrounding groundwater, notably where illegal boreholes were involved, as well as creating considerable pesticide pollution and plastic waste which was accumulating in local creeks; AFP further reported that WWF was calling for a boycott of Spanish strawberries, but this is contradicted by the remarks of a WWF-Spain spokesperson, and it is uncharacteristic of WWF to call for blanket boycotts.
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