Anthropogenic effects and salt marsh loss in the Mondego and Mira estuaries (Portugal)
Recent decades have witnessed marked losses of coastal wetlands worldwide, but consistent data on salt marsh area are not available. The main goal of this study was to provide information on two Portuguese estuarine habitats (Mondego and Mira) over a period of four to six decades, and to assess how anthropogenic activities have altered the salt marsh ecosystem. Chronological sequences of aerial photographs covering a period of 54 yr (1947–1998) and 38 yr (1958–1995) for the Mondego and Mira estuaries, respectively, were considered for this study. Long-term changes in the Mondego estuary revealed a clear decline in the salt marsh area during the past six decades due to urban and industrial expansion. In contrast, the Mira estuary salt marshes remained almost unchanged since 1958. This ecosystem is relatively undisturbed by anthropogenic activities, and marsh variation seems to follow natural dynamics rather than being vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure. The sustainable management of salt marshes must be a priority concern to ensure the long-term viability of their ecological, economic and social capital.