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Assessing the effectiveness of potential best management practices for science-informed decision support at the watershed scale: The case of the Mar Menor coastal lagoon, Spain

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  • Adrián López-Ballesteros, University of Murcia
  • ,
  • Dennis Trolle, WaterITech
  • ,
  • Raghavan Srinivasan, Texas A and M University
  • ,
  • Javier Senent-Aparicio, University of Murcia

Coastal lagoons are ecosystems of high environmental importance but are quite vulnerable to human activities. The continuous inflow of pollutant loads can trigger negative impacts on the ecological status of these water bodies, which is contrary to the European Green Deal. One example is the Mar Menor coastal lagoon in Spain, which has experienced significant environmental degradation in recent years due to excessive external nutrient input, especially from non-point source (NPS) pollution. Mar Menor is one of the largest coastal lagoons of the Mediterranean region and a site of great ecological and socio-economic value. In this study, the highly anthropogenic and complex watershed of Mar Menor, known as Campo de Cartagena (1244 km2), was modelled with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to analyse potential options for recovery of this unique system. The model was used to simulate several best management practices (BMP) proposed by recent Mar Menor regulations, such as vegetative filter strips, shoreline buffers, contour farming, removal of illegal agriculture, crop rotation management, waterway vegetation restoration, fertiliser management and greenhouse rainwater harvesting. Sixteen scenarios of individual and combined BMPs were analysed in this study. We found that, as individual measures, vegetative filter strips and contour farming were most effective in nutrient reduction: approximately 30 % for total nitrogen (TN) and 40 % for total phosphorus (TP). Moreover, waterway vegetation restoration showed the highest sediment (S) reduction at approximately 20 %. However, the combination of BMPs demonstrated clear synergistic effects, reducing S export by 38 %, TN by 67 %, and TP by 75 %. Selecting the most appropriate BMPs to be implemented at a watershed scale requires a holistic approach considering effectiveness in reducing NPS pollution loads and BMP implementation costs. Thus, we have demonstrated a way forward for enabling science-informed decision-making when choosing strategies to control NPS contamination at the watershed scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160144
JournalScience of the total Environment
IssuePart 1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2022

    Research areas

  • Best management practices (BMP), Campo de Cartagena, Mar Menor, Non-point source (NPS) pollution, Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model

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