The Doñana wetlands are under threat from petroleum prospecting, mining and commercial strawberry farming. Doñanas watershed includes the historic mining regions of Huelva’s Sierra Morena. Though now greatly reduced, decades of mining activity has left a legacy that includes endemic high unemployment and numerous toxic tailing lakes. In 1998 a tailing dam at the Los Frailes mine burst releasing 4-6 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into Doñana’s watershed. Described as Spain’s worst environmental disaster the contamination effected some 4,634 hectares of riverine habitats. Responsibility for the clean up operation, which took 3 years and cost €240 Million, is still being fought against Swiss mining company Boliden. A number of tailing ponds and lakes still exist and literally hang above Doñana as a permanent a toxic threat.
Agriculture, in the form of commercial strawberry farming is also taking its toll on the wetlands. Strawberry farms have encircled the park, inhibiting the essential movement and conservation strategies for wildlife such as the Iberian Lynx, the worlds most endangered feline . Commercial strawberry activity has also lead to the depletion of the natural water table through legal and illegal boreholes and the wetlands have in recent years become completely dependent on seasonal rains. UNESCO have asked the Spanish Government for a report on the situation by the 1st February before Doñana is placed on the heritage in danger list.
As if these threats were not enough, in the wave of unconventional oil and gas prospecting that is presently threatening some of the worlds most important and iconic landscapes, Doñana has also been targeted – Petroleum Oil Gas Espana have 3 new gas projects in the pipeline for the park , these are likely to include hydraulic fracturing and gas injection and storage.