Roman water management impacted the hydrological functioning of wetlands during drought periods

Fernando Gazquez-Sanchez, Francisco Jimenez-Espejo, Miguel Rodriguez-Rodriguez, Lucia Martegani, Claudia Voigt, Dolores Ruiz-Lara, Ana Moreno, Blas Valero-Garcés, Mario Morellón, Celia Martin Puertas

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During the Roman domain of the Iberian Peninsula (from 201 BCE to 460 CE) water management infrastructures were built to satisfy high water demand. However, whether the Roman activities affected the hydrological balance of Iberian wetlands remains unclear. Here, we investigate the paleo-hydrology of Lake Zóñar (southern Iberia) by using the stable isotopes (16O, 17O, 18O, 1H and 2H) of its gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) sediments and reconstruct the isotopic composition of the lake water during Roman times. A period of recurrent lake low stand occurred between 2120 and 1890 cal. yr BP (ca. 170 BCE to 60 CE), coinciding with a relatively dry climate stage recorded by most regional paleoclimate archives. The stable isotopes and hydrochemistry of the lake water during gypsum precipitation are consistent with a shallow saline lake that evaporated under relative humidity ~ 10% lower than the present annual mean and at least 20% less rainfall amount. Our analytical and archeological findings support lake level lowering during the Roman period was probably caused by combined arid climate conditions and diversion of the inlets feeding the lake. Spring capturing was likely necessary to satisfy the high water demand of nearby Roman settlements, in the framework of a period of persistent droughts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18815
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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