A review of the effects of agricultural and industrial contamination on the Ebro delta biota and wildlife

S. Mañosa, R. Mateo, R. Guitart

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117 Citations (Scopus)


The Ebro delta (NE Spain) is a 320 km2 wetland area of international importance for conservation. The area is devoted to rice farming and receives large amounts of pesticides. Industrial pollutants are also carried to the delta by the river. The information accumulated during the last 25 year on the effect of such pollution on the biota is reviewed in order to identify the existing gaps and needs for management. Organochlorine pesticides were legally used until 1977, which has resulted in the widespread presence of these compounds in the Ebro delta biota. Lethal, sublethal or other detrimental effects of these pesticides on wildlife in the area were poorly investigated, but negative effects on the reproduction of ducks and herons were reported. Nowadays, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are the main responsible of organochlorine pollution in the area: concentrations in biota samples are higher than levels observed in nearby coastal areas, as a result of the significant PCB inputs by the river which, in 1990, were evaluated at 126 kg yr-1. The massive use of herbicides is thought to have contributed to the elimation of macrophyte vegetation in the lagoons during the eighties, which had strong consequences on diving ducks and coot populations. Weed control is also related to the loss of biodiversity held by rice fields. The massive and inadequate use of organophosphorus and carbamate pesticides (involving more than 20 000 t yr-1) has produced some waterbird mortality events, and may have direct and indirect effects on other non-target organisms. The accumulation in the soil of lead pellets used in waterfowl shooting is estimated to kill some 16 300 waterbirds in the Ebro delta every year.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-205
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Catalonia
  • Ebro delta
  • Pesticides
  • Pollution
  • Spain


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