Although Mediterranean wetlands are characterized by extreme natural water level fluctuations in response to irregular precipitation patterns, global climate change is expected to amplify this pattern by shortening precipitation seasons and increasing the incidence of summer droughts in this area. As a consequence, a part of the lake sediment will be exposed to air-drying in dry years when the water table becomes low. This periodic sediment exposure to dry/wet cycles will likely affect biogeochemical processes. Unexpectedly, to date, few studies are focused on assessing the effects of water level fluctuations on the biogeochemistry of these ecosystems. In this review, we investigate the potential impacts of water level fluctuations on phosphorus dynamics and on greenhouse gases emissions in Mediterranean wetlands. Major drivers of global change, and specially water level fluctuations, will lead to the degradation of water quality in Mediterranean wetlands by increasing the availability of phosphorus concentration in the water column upon rewetting of dry sediment. CO2
fluxes are likely to be enhanced during desiccation, while inundation is likely to decrease cumulative CO2
emissions, as well as N2
O emissions, although increasing CH4
emissions. However, there exists a complete gap of knowledge about the net effect of water level fluctuations induced by global change on greenhouse gases emission. Accordingly, further research is needed to assess whether the periodic exposure to dry–wet cycles, considering the extent and frequency of the cycles, will amplify the role of these especial ecosystems as a source of these gases and thereby act as a feedback mechanism for global warming. To conclude, it is pertinent to consider that a better understanding about the effect of water level fluctuations on the biogeochemistry of Mediterranean wetlands will help to predict how other freshwater ecosystems will respond.
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