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Flow Regime and Nutrient-Loading Trends from the Largest South European Watersheds: Implications for the Productivity of Mediterranean and Black Sea’s Coastal Areas

1
CNR—ISMAR Marine Science Institute, 34149 Trieste, Italy
2
IRTA—Aquatic Ecosystems Program, Sant Carles de la Ràpita, 43540 Catalunya, Spain
3
NIMRD—National Institute for Marine Research and Development, 900581 Constanța, Romania
4
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS/INSU, Université de Toulon, IRD, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO), 13288 Marseille, France
5
OGS—Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale, 34151 Trieste, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11010001
Received: 14 November 2018 / Revised: 7 December 2018 / Accepted: 12 December 2018 / Published: 20 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Flows, Ecological Quality and Ecosystem Services)
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Abstract

In the last century, large watersheds in Southern Europe have been impacted by a combination of anthropogenic and climatic pressures, which have rapidly evolved to change the ecological status of freshwater and coastal systems. A comparative analysis was performed for Ebro, Rhône, Po and Danube rivers, to investigate if they exhibited differential dynamics in hydrology and water quality that can be linked to specific human and natural forces acting at sub-continental scales. Flow regime series were analyzed from daily to multi-decadal scales, considering frequency distributions, trends (Mann–Kendall and Sen tests) and discontinuities (SRSD Method). River loads of suspended matter, nutrients and organic matter and the eutrophication potential of river nutrients were estimated to assess the impact of river loads on adjacent coastal areas. The decline of freshwater resources largely impacted the Ebro watershed on annual (−0.139 km3 yr−1) and seasonal (−0.4% yr−1) scales. In the other rivers, only spring–summer showed significant decreases of the runoff coupled to an exacerbated flow variability (0.1–0.3% yr−1), which suggested the presence of an enhanced regional climatic instability. Discontinuities in annual runoff series (every 20–30 years) indicated a similar long-term evolution of Rhône and Po rivers, differently from Ebro and Danube. Higher nutrient concentrations in the Ebro and Po (+50%) compared to Rhône and Danube and distinct stoichiometric nutrient ratios may exert specific impacts on the growth of plankton biomass in coastal areas. The overall decline of inorganic phosphorus in the Rhône and Po (since the 1980s) and the Ebro and Danube (since the 1990s) mitigated the eutrophication in coastal ecosystems inducing, however, a phase in which the role of organic phosphorus loads (Po > Danube > Rhône > Ebro) on coastal productivity could be more relevant. Overall, the study showed that the largest South European watersheds are differently impacted by anthropogenic and climatic forces and that this will influence their vulnerability to future changes of flow regime and water quality. View Full-Text
Keywords: river runoff; anthropogenic pressures; climate change; water quality; coastal productivity; time series; Mediterranean; Black Sea river runoff; anthropogenic pressures; climate change; water quality; coastal productivity; time series; Mediterranean; Black Sea
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Cozzi, S.; Ibáñez, C.; Lazar, L.; Raimbault, P.; Giani, M. Flow Regime and Nutrient-Loading Trends from the Largest South European Watersheds: Implications for the Productivity of Mediterranean and Black Sea’s Coastal Areas. Water 2019, 11, 1.

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