Research Conference on soil remediation and ecosystem services

The mine accident occurred in Aznalcóllar (Sevilla) in April 1998 was a large-scale catastrophe of important ecological and socioeconomical consequences. The cleaning up and remediation of the soils contaminated with trace elements, the following afforestation, and the creation of a protected area – The Guadiamar Green Corridor – is a restoration case study of international relevance.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the mine accident, this April 26th 2018 the IRNAS, CSIC has organized a Research Conference on Soil remediation and ecosystem services. The inauguration was presided by José Enrique Fernández (Director of IRNAS), Isabel González (Director of the Doctorate Program on Natural Resources and Environment, University of Seville) and Margarita Paneque (CSIC Delegate in Andalusia).

The Conference consisted of six panel presentations and one round table. In the first talk Miguel Ferrer (EBD, CSIC), who was Director of the Doñana Biological Station in 1998, presented a historical perspective of the ecological impacts of the mine-spill and the learnings to prevent this type of accidents.

Francisco Cabrera (IRNAS, CSIC) and Emilio Galán (University of Seville) addressed the problems derived from soil contamination by trace elements, and the measures to remediate them. Paula Madejón (IRNAS, CSIC) presented the soil remediation measures evaluated by the IRNAS for the European project RECARE, and exhibited a video recorded by Viverra Films.

María Teresa Domínguez (University of Seville) remarked the ecosystem services, in particular of regulation, provided by the remediated soils in the Guadiamar. Francisco Quirós (Andalusian Government) stated that the current management objective for the Protected Landscape Guadiamar Green Corridor is to consolidate the ecological corridor for biodiversity conservation, and the enhancement of ecosystem services, especially those of regulation and cultural.

Photo: Bruno Sester (CSIC)

The Conference finished with a round table moderated by Teodoro Marañón (IRNAS), about the topic “A recovered natural area: challenges and opportunities”. There was a consensus indicating that the main scientific and technical challenge, after the mine spill, was the quick cleaning up and remediation of the contaminated land. Among the opportunities, it was remarked the creation of a new protected area, and its function as ecological corridor, promoting biodiversity conservation. From the scientific perspective, there was the opportunity of having a natural laboratory where to test and evaluate remediation techniques for soils contaminated by trace elements. In this sense, it was very relevant the transfer of knowledge and technology acquired during these 20 years post-accident, and the potential application in similar cases.

Workshop on ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to the human wellbeing. The remediation of contaminated soils after the Aznalcóllar mine spill, and the restoration of the Guadiamar Green Corridor (Sevilla, Spain) provide with multiple ecosystem services to local and regional societies.

The stakeholder workshop for the evaluation of ecosystem services was held on November 29th 2017. Benefits arisen from the implementation of two remediation measures – amendment addition and tree plantations – were valuated by stakeholders.

This workshop was organized by the IRNAS, CSIC and Evenor Tech, in the Guadiamar Visitor Centre at Aznalcázar, Sevilla, thanks to the collaboration of Guadiamar Educa. It was part of the projects RECARE and RESTECO.

Stakeholders valuated mainly the benefits associated to regulation services, such as stabilization of contaminants, soil formation and mitigation of climate change by carbon sequestration. They also valuated highly the cultural services related with recreational activities, ecotourism, landscape value and the scientific interest as natural laboratory for environmental research. Lastly, some provisioning services were valuated, like production of biofuel and of forage for horses.

The workshop presentations and the Report with the results will be uploaded at the communication platform Recare-hub.

Regulation about polluted soils in Andalusia

The management of polluted soils in Andalusia (South Spain) is regulated by the Decree-Law 18/2015 which includes “Recognized Documents”. Those are technical documents providing guide and promotion of good practices for natural or legal persons responsible of potentially contaminants activities.

During a Workshop on March 15th 2017 three recognized documents were discussed:

Guide for the research of potentially contaminated soils

Guide for the classification of potentially contaminated soils according to the risk

Guide for the evaluation of risks for human health in potentially contaminated soils

Contributions to those documents can be submitted, before March 31st 2017, at: