Climate-Dependent Groundwater Discharge on Semi-Arid Inland Ephemeral Wetlands: Lessons from Holocene Sediments of Lagunas Reales in Central Spain

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Wetlands are environments whose water balance is highly sensitive to climate change and human action. This sensitivity has allowed us to explore the relationships between surface water and groundwater in the long term as their sediments record all these changes and go beyond the instrumental/observational period. The Lagunas Reales, in central Spain, is a semi-arid inland wetland endangered by both climate and human activity. The reconstruction of the hydroclimate and water levels from sedimentary facies, as well as the changes in the position of the surface water and groundwater via the record of their geochemical fingerprint in the sediments, has allowed us to establish a conceptual model for the response of the hydrological system (surface water and groundwater) to climate. Arid periods are characterized by low levels of the deeper saline groundwater and by a greater influence of the surface freshwater. A positive water balance during wet periods allows the discharge of the deeper saline groundwater into the wetland, causing an increase in salinity. These results contrast with the classical model where salinity increases were related to greater evaporation rates and this opens up a new way of understanding the evolution of the hydrology of wetlands and their resilience to natural and anthropogenic changes.
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