We present the results of the “Identification of Candidate Sites for the creation of national protected areas in the province of Catamarca”.

 

During September and October 2021, the National Park Administration (APN) and Natura Argentina teams worked on constructing a multi-criteria environmental assessment to identify Candidate Sites with high Conservation Values to create the first national protected area in Catamarca.

Given the declared interest on the part of the APN and the government of the province of Catamarca for the creation of the first Catamarca National Park, and the great diversity of ecosystems and landscapes that the province presents, a fruitful technical and collaborative work was undertaken to contribute to this process. The technical teams worked together, compiling available information on the environmental aspects of the provincial territory, layers of information related to land use, field data, and publications referring to biodiversity, among other sources, to carry out the analysis.

According to Cristina Casavecchia -advisor in planning and management of conservation and protected areas of Natura-: “Technical-scientific approaches like this are of great importance, to work on the strategic prioritization of potential sites to be declared as protected areas. Natura Argentina thus contributes with its work in this process and highlights the importance of inter-institutional collaboration, as is the case of this experience between APN and an NGO like Natura”.

Numerous technical coordination meetings and virtual workshops were held, in which professionals from both institutions participated, with different experiences relevant to the process. The main classification criteria were defined and weighed, specifically for each of the five ecoregions of the province of Catamarca: Monte de Sierras y Bolsones, Yungas, Chaco Seco, Puna and Altos Andes.

The fundamental criteria were linked to water, glaciers, vegetation and native forests, the impact of human activities and specific sites of importance for various species.

As a result of the multi-criteria analysis, the prioritized areas with an area greater than 10,000 ha were: 1) Salinas Grandes, 2) Bolsón de Pipanaco, 3) Seis Miles (north), 4) Aconquija Catamarca, 5) Seis Miles (south). It should be noted that the Sierras de Narváez are also positioned as a candidate site, although it is not among the 5 most relevant.

For the director of Natura Argentina, Lucila Castro, “the tools and results obtained in this work constitute a strategic input base for decision-making, related to the conservation values ​​of the province of Catamarca and the Argentine Nation.”

We hope that, in future instances, more detailed evaluations will be developed jointly with key actors, on the feasibility of the Candidate Sites, or other proposed sites. For Castro, “the objective will be to achieve a proposal for a national protected area, technically robust, effective in representing ecoregions on a national scale, under a figure of protection, and that protects the natural and cultural heritage valued by the Catamarcan and Argentine community” .

Natura Argentina makes itself available to accompany the Government of Catamarca in seeking and jointly developing more detailed evaluations of the feasibility of the Candidate Sites, or other proposed sites, based on inter-institutional, collaborative, mixed cabinet, and fieldwork.

 

The full report is available here.

 

“The most efficient house is the one that demands the least energy, not just the one that generates it through renewable energies,” says Fabián Garreta, our month’s guest on Natura Argentina´s Blog. Some tips to make a better use of the climate and energy in our homes.

 

There was a time when comfort needs were directly satisfied with architectonics resolutions. Those that could not be solved with construction was mitigated with clothing. If it was not enough either, a wider comfort range was tolerated. Since the middle of the last century, and in the framework of a sort of “world of cheap and abundant energy”, architecture has divorced from interaction with the environment and the heating and cooling systems that we know today began to multiply.

Currently, and beyond the final amount that we paid in the electricity, gas or network water bill, the cost of energy has been growing due to the constant increase in demand (growth of the world population and greater consumption) and the search for more environmentally sustainable solutions.

The construction and use or operation of buildings is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. The highest energy consumption is in air conditioning: cooling and heating of living spaces.

House-Roatan-Honduras. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

In Argentina, this percentage is repeated, even with the demographic distribution highly favored by the climate. Construction quality in the country is deficient, since the building envelope is unable to take advantage of favorable environmental conditions (solar gain in winter and ventilation on hot days) and avoid harmful ones (thermal insulation, use of eaves and sunshades).

The need to achieve comfort, to rest, work or study, is beneficial for our health and to improve our quality of life. It is now widely established that the best conditions are achieved with temperatures between 18 and 26°C. If the architecture achieves a very good interaction with the climate, and the building reaches these temperature values, the energy demand to improve its habitability drops significantly.

 

THE PATH TO SUSTAINABLE HOUSING

Many variables involve a home to be sustainable. From the most basic aspects related to architecture and its way of living it, to the recovery of water, landscape design, the incorporation of efficient equipment or the implementation of renewable energies.

House-Roatan-Honduras. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

Maintaining or improving the level of comfort by lowering energy consumption is the great challenge. The most important factor when it comes to achieving an efficient home is to reduce the exchange of heat between the interior and the exterior, given that more than 60% of the energy consumed in the home is used for thermal conditioning (hot and cold). The most efficient home is the one that demands the least energy, not only the one that generates it through renewable energies.

 

Here are some tips (or bioclimatic design criteria) to keep in mind:

-Verify and, if necessary, correct the level of thermal insulation of walls, roofs and windows. Depending on the type of roof, it is more or less easy to add thermal insulation, there are solutions that rest directly on flat roofs and reduce heat loss to less than 1/3.

 

-Working on the walls is usually more complex, but we can use thermal plasters, insulation plates or coatings that allow us to incorporate greater control of the thermal flow between the existing wall and the new finish.

 

-The openings (the most thermally permeable elements), can be replaced by new ones with hermetic double glazing technology (DVH) and profiles with less conductivity and infiltration. If the budget is tighter, weather stripping can be applied to all openings, reducing the entry and exit of air, which greatly reduces the demand for air conditioning.

 

-Friendly materials: select materials with sustainability certification, such as the Floor-score or FSC in wood. Look for those that have recycled content and those that are produced near the work site, to reduce the impact of transportation. Nowadays, thanks to consumer demand, most companies show these qualities in the technical sheets of their products. For electrical appliances, select those with efficiency A or higher and look for robust equipment that requires less replacement.

 

THE FUTURE OF OUR HOUSES

There is a growing and unsatisfied demand for housing in Argentina that could be addressed from bioclimatic design and efficiency. Bioclimatic design should not be associated with construction with rudimentary materials (mud, straw, industrial waste). On the contrary, project and technological decisions must respond to the climate and ensure stability over time with minimal maintenance and energy use.

The implementation of the Distributed Generation Law, in force for some years now, can be a strategic instrument to decarbonize the existing and future architecture. Its application on a scale depends on the will of each government, but it is already an available and proven tool.

There are companies that sell materials with certifications that ensure a lower impact on the use of inputs and their production. Unfortunately, the construction market evolves very slowly in the hands of an unstable economy, which makes it difficult to create companies with a “green spirit”.

An excessive and misleading use of the concept of sustainability for commercial purposes can often be observed, as well as not very successful associations of the use of solar energy in architecturally very inefficient buildings. For example, sometimes, a solar system for hot water or photovoltaics is simply installed, and with that we believe that we are sustainable.

But in the last decades there have been regulations and legislation, especially in central countries, that require professionals to reach certain minimum values of energy efficiency in projects. In some cases, these requirements result in higher construction quality and less impact on the environment, even complying with standards of architectural excellence, such as LEED, Passivhaus, Breeam, EDGE Certification or others.

 

Certificacion-LEED-YPF-Nordelta. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

In Europe, it is common to find buildings that have an energy balance equal to zero. That is, during an annual cycle they consume the same as they generate. That is not the most advanced, there are buildings that even have an energy surplus: they produce more than they consume.

In Argentina, cities such as Rosario and Buenos Aires have regulations aimed at carrying out architectural projects with lower energy demand. All have the legal framework; however, its application is not yet effective.

The challenge of the future is in the application of bioclimatic design criteria: consider orientations, use of thermal insulation, natural ventilation, sunlight of interior spaces in cold seasons and sun protection in summer, etc. If we add to this the choice of efficient systems and installations, the use of energy for air conditioning equipment will be greatly reduced. Just by taking advantage of the sun as a source of heating in homes, Argentina would be saving more than 10% of primary energy.

 

When someone names the province of Santiago del Estero, we usually think about a “chacarera”, the oppressive heat, the native forest with its quebrachos, and even sometimes, the famous Río Dulce. This river runs through the province from north to south and few know the secret that its waters hide when it joins the Mar Chiquita lagoon, in the extreme south of the province.

It is precisely in this sector where the Río Dulce forms an incredible delta that, together with the lagoon, forms an enormous wetland of one million hectares, the largest saline wetland in South America. What stands out most about this ecosystem is its great biodiversity, which gives the Rio Dulce marshes top environmental importance.

Thousands of colonial and migratory birds are concentrated in its diverse aquatic environments, sustaining more than 1% of its populations globally, which is the same as saying that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals. In the associated terrestrial environments there are also endangered mammal species such as the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), the chaco tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis), the neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and numerous species of amphibians, reptiles and fish.

Although the Rio Dulce wetlands are not well known or visited, this ecosystem is recognized worldwide as a RAMSAR site and is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Despite these important calling cards, these wetlands are seriously threatened by lack of management and human modification of water regimes.

A part of this wetland is located in the province of Córdoba and another in the province of Santiago del Estero. The area corresponding to Córdoba has been designated as a Provincial Multiple Use Reserve, a relatively weak category that is not enough to guarantee the conservation of its natural and cultural values.This has led to a provincial, national and global campaign to convert this area into a National Park. All levels of government worked on this strategy – led from the third sector by Aves Argentinas and supported by us and numerous organizations and institutions. 

 

In Córdoba, since 2017, fundamental work has been carried out to achieve the declaration, and the creation of the Ansenuza National Park, approved by the Córdoba legislature, is very close. Now it is the turn of the national government, since the law has to be dealt with in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the Senate. Despite all these very important advances, the area corresponding to Santiago del Estero lacks of legal protection or international designation, and until very recently there was little information about what species were present in the place and about the inhabitants who live in close relationship with the wetland.

The Natura Argentina team has been working since 2019 in the Río Dulce wetland area, in the province of Santiago del Estero. One of the main activities that we are carrying out together with the local inhabitants is to update the information on the knowledge and local use of the ecosystems and the different species that can be found in the different environments of the marshes.

By working with local people, we strengthen the collective creation of knowledge, one of the pillars of our conservation work. Thanks to these dialogues, we discover how they perceive their territory, how they relate to the rest of the species and their environments, how they believe that the uses and activities they carry out influence the health of the territory and how they are affected by their daily work dynamics.

The knowledge of the local inhabitants is the key in a process of building strategies to conserve the cultural and environmental values of a place, and the local communities must participate in the decisions made in this regard, because they are part of the territory and the main beneficiaries.

 

 

Thanks to work and social information, we were able to identify which vulnerable species are usually seen, and in which environments. With this knowledge, we went out into the field to look for species classified as endangered or vulnerable according to the IUCN list, due to the support of the Rain Forest Trust. The technical work consisted of placing camera traps at different points. In this way we were able to carry out tests to observe footprints, spot fauna and any other type of evidence about the presence of the species.

These efforts were paid off, and the team managed to record a total of 152 bird species, which represents 39.3% of the total number of bird species cited for the province of Santiago del Estero. Of these species, 35 are migratory and use the wetlands during the summer to feed and/or nest. In addition, the presence of 16 species of mammals, six reptiles, six amphibians and three species of fish was confirmed. Of all these species, the presence of the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) stands out, which is usually seen during the winter and when the river rises and forms wetlands. 

Through interviews, local residents confirmed the presence of the crowned solitary eagle (Buteogallus coronatus), the chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri) and the chaco tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis), species classified as vulnerable or in danger of extinction by the IUCN. These species are associated with the highlands-native forest, on the margin of the depression of the Rio Dulce marshes.

 

 

Area of interest. Santiago del Estero province, Argentina. Credits: Natura Argentina Team.

 

Creating a protected area (PA) in the delta of the Río Dulce would be a great step for the conservation of these important wetlands. It is a way to safeguard the goods and services that local people use to live, and a resource to protect the ecosystems where all the species that we managed to identify in the Rio Dulce marshes live. For this reason, we will continue working in the area, to advance with the necessary biological studies, to increase and update the information on the presence of species in threatened or endangered categories.

We are also going to continue in contact with local people, not only to hear their opinions, but also to provide them with all the necessary information so that they can be part of the different stages of creating a PA.

By Claudio Bertonatti

Traditionally, heritage is divided into natural and cultural. It is an intellectual exercise that seeks to classify welfares, spaces, species… only for the purpose of simplifying their understanding, as taxonomy does with zoology or botany. But this classification conditions our perception, to the point of observing nature, on the one hand, and culture, on the other. At this point we are facing a problem.

The fact is that even when we walk through the most urban landscape, it is easy to verify that wild species are present, as well as the soil, water and air. In the same way, when we walk through a wild ecosystem, cultural aspects are present: sometimes, in an invisible way, such as toponyms, myths, legends, songs, history, popular names of animals, medicinal uses of the plants… Sometimes their presence is obvious if there are paths, roads and other human structures.

However, the dissociation between “the natural” and “the cultural” is usually reinforced by the diffusion provided in the emblematic places on both sides. For example, in protected natural areas, brochures and posters shows the flora or fauna, but rarely the cultural components (historical, anthropological, archaeological and folkloric). Something similar happens when we visit a historical, archaeological or art museum: all very nice, but nature does not appear, as if it were a metaphor for the gaze of a one-eyed man. But if we were able to see with both eyes, the visual field would expand to reveal an integrated panorama.

From that view, heritage appears. That is, the integral legacy (natural and cultural) of the generations that preceded us. They selected objects, places, characters, species and events with which they identified in their time. We not only receive them: we resignify them, ratify them, discard them or renew them. Therefore, heritage is a social construction, based on the valuation, feeling and knowledge of the present. For this reason, different societies identify themselves with a patrimonial inventory that varies over time, although always, with the same purpose: to string them together to weave a story about their identity.

 

The renowned actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio published on his social networks a request addressed to the Argentinian Congress, asking for the treatment of the bill for the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve.

Leonardo DiCaprio requested through his social networks to the National Congress the treatment of the bill to move forward with the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve, he also stressed the global importance of this wetland. This request is in addition to the one made formally a few days ago by Natura International Argentina and Aves Argentinas.

In August of this year, a Provincial law was obtained by unanimous vote of the legislature of the province of Córdoba. Now, the urgent request is the approval of the National Law that will allow the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve. Having this protected area is of vital importance to ensure the conservation of the wetland formed by the Mar Chiquita Lagoon and the marshes of the Dulce River, a key site for the conservation of biodiversity at a global level and one of the most important wetlands in Argentina.

Lucila Castro, director of Natura International Argentina, stated: “The creation of the Ansenuza National Park will allow us to protect and develop, together with its local communities, one of the most important ecosystems in our country”.

The creation of the Park requires the approval of the Chamber of Deputies first, and then of the Chamber of Senators.

DiCaprio’s request states: “The Argentine government is ready to take the final steps necessary to make Ansenuza National Park a reality. This designation is a dream shared by local communities, the government of the province of Córdoba, the National Parks Administration, the Argentine Ministry of Environment, Aves Argentinas, Fundación Wyss, Natura International Argentina, and Re:wild,” emphasizing the importance of working together to achieve great goals.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the Chamber of Deputies to give us great news to close the year,” Castro pointed out, “since there is a general consensus for the creation of these protected areas, it remains to put it on the agenda and vote on it, which will give us a good reason to start 2022 moving forward in a mission that unites us: the conservation of one of Argentina’s most valuable wetlands.”

By Marcela Tittarelli

From Santa Fe Province, Argentina, we want to share experiences and impressions of people who have had the opportunity to observe maned wolf specimens in the wild. To try to convey those moments of emotion, I invite readers to imagine that they are in a huge pasture or an open forest of espinillos, quebrachos, and carob trees; we can also envision a ravine, stream, or lagoon. Let’s imagine that we are walking through one of these environments and suddenly a “fire” appears in front of us, the intense orange color of its coat surprises us and stands out in this landscape.

Because of this coloration, in some places it is called Doradillo.On the other hand, its particular silhouette and ungainly gait have earned it the name in some places of “fox foal”. Its size, its raised fur on the back and its loud vocalizations at night, have led erroneously to relate it with the legend of the Lobizón, generating unfounded fears.

The maned wolf (Aguará guazú) is a tireless walker of the environments described above, and can surprise us with a jump or we can see it diving like a dolphin, while it displays its hunting skills in a sea of tall grasses. Many times it is often observed concentrating deeply or looking “beyond”, without noticing the human presence that records the moment through a camera. It has also been recorded bordering watercourses or flooding areas. Solitary, slow-walking, and shy, this canid does not represent a danger to livestock or humans.

Although the bibliography mentions that it is most active during twilight and nighttime hours, we have received records of specimens observed at midday and even in the early afternoon.

(Matías Romano)

Regarding its ecological role, on the one hand, we know that this species uses connected landscapes of grasslands, wetlands, and forests, demonstrating the impact that altered or fragmented landscapes have on the survival of the fauna associated with these environments. In terms of its diet, it is a great seed disperser and is the most important predator in this region after the puma.

Thanks to the records provided by people, surveys, and surveys conducted in the Province of Santa Fe, we can say that the main threat to this and many species of our fauna is the alteration of the landscape, which leads to many individuals dying from being run over on roads or approaching urban or semi-urban areas and being attacked by dogs or being exposed to diseases of domestic animals, as well as extreme weather events (droughts and floods).

Especially thanks to the diffusion of technology we receive a large number of records of maned wolves killed by collisions on our roads and in contrast, we also receive many records of sightings.

In 2003 this species was declared a Provincial Natural Monument (Law 12182) and then in 2009 the Conservation Plan (Version 1) was published, which includes an Action Protocol for the Rescue of specimens and Collection of information which is disseminated through the Security Forces, Municipalities and Communes, and guides the ways to act in case of an encounter with an individual. In this way, we differentiate the cases that warrant an intervention from the State together with Security Forces to rescue a specimen, from those cases that are identified as sightings or findings of dead specimens. In all cases, the information we obtain is entered into a spreadsheet that allows us to evaluate threats, distribution, etc., and thus be able to propose concrete conservation actions.

When we receive notification that a maned wolf is found inside urban constructions or rural buildings due to an unusual event, we proceed to place it in a shelter and evaluate whether it is feasible to release it in a nearby natural area. If it is wounded or there are indications that it has been in captivity, then it is transferred to the wildlife center to be evaluated by veterinary professionals. After a period of quarantine and rehabilitation, many of these individuals can be released.

(Matías Romano)

We always remind you not to intervene directly, but to contact the security forces if you find an individual in a conflictive or injured situation; on the other hand, if you observe a free animal in a peri-urban or rural area, simply sharing the location, date and photo or film with us is very valuable information.

It is important to highlight that there is great communication and coordination with fauna personnel from other provinces, with institutions involved in the protection of biodiversity, with veterinarians, biologists, researchers, and others to share information on how to act when individuals need veterinary assistance or to be relocated in natural areas or when veterinary consultations are made, thus creating a collaboration between professionals and involving different institutions for the conservation of this species.

In this sense, and no less important, the question arises: What can each one of us do to help protect this species? And this is necessarily extended to all the fauna and the ecosystem where it lives. As an answer, we believe that it is important to understand and internalize that as a species we are part of the life that develops on our planet, that it is essential to respect, protect and coexist with the life forms and the health of our environment. All the actions and activities that we carry out in our cities or communities, depending on how they are executed, can have negative repercussions on the ecosystems and then on our health. So it is essential to maintain or restore healthy ecosystems.

 

By Yanina Druetta

If for a moment we look into the past, we can see and be assured that, from the first instant that humans appeared on the face of the earth, they began to relate closely with nature. Let us imagine that stage of human existence as a scene of chaos where life was hard and dangerous, but there was some minimum tranquility that guaranteed the reproduction of the species. These first humans adapted to the environment, learned from it, and understood how to take advantage of the resources provided without affecting the self-regulation of the ecosystem.

As time went by, the need to obtain new knowledge about the natural world increased, and a latent spark of curiosity made famous characters with great capacities of study and observation give way to their adventurous spirit. They set out for new worlds participating in epic journeys with the desire to visit unexplored places and discover an endless number of creatures and phenomena never seen before. Thus, the field of Natural History was born.

Two pioneers of this field were Charles Darwin and Alexander Von Humboldt. Twenty-three years after his expeditionary journey to the southern coast of America, Darwin published the book On The Origin of Species. There, he introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve during generations through a process known as natural selection.

Chilean Flamingos (Yanina Druetta/Natura International)

After an ambitious scientific expedition to America, Von Humboldt changed his perception of how the world and nature were related. Von Humboldt saw the world as a great organism in which all living beings were connected in a delicate balance, and he was the first to study climate change caused by human action.

Today we look at the past from a very different reality. Society continues to evolve, and the knowledge obtained is abundant and within everyone’s reach. But unfortunately, there is a distance between humans and nature that dates back to the beginning of the industrial era, where the damage caused to forests, land, water and wildlife by the consumption of raw materials and the indiscriminate use of non-renewable resources has increased dramatically.

This quest for wealth that does not contemplate a sustainable way of production crushes any ethical and conservationist thinking about the environment and leads us to rethink the role of today’s naturalist. We know a lot about biodiversity, natural phenomena, ecological roles, ecosystem services, and many other topics, but… What is it that makes this concept of being a Naturalist more useful nowadays? What is the objective that these people -who possess the same spark of curiosity as those ancient researchers- have pursued? Undoubtedly, the answers to these questions are intimately linked to the extractivist way in which we behave on the planet.

Dulce river marshlands (Yanina Druetta/Natura International)

A Naturalist lives very closely with their love for nature–studies it, forms alliances with it, defends it. And this “mode” is activated every time we begin to observe all the wonderful things that surround us, finally understanding that we are also part of that environment; we need to get closer to it again to achieve that harmonious coexistence that causes endless benefits for both.

A modern naturalist is probably not a faithful reflection of those pioneers of ancient times who only wanted to discover and understand. A modern naturalist, beyond wanting to learn and understand, is convinced that curiosity and passion for nature are the fundamental tools that can inspire an entire society’s desire to change its relationship with the natural environment, making people interested in it and involved in its care.

Many times, I believe that being a naturalist also means being that bridge that connects and tries to raise awareness about the need to find the right balance between development and conservation that allows us all to leave green footprints in our journey through life.

by Lic. María Marta Mokobodzki Ongaro

Protected areas constitute a fundamental strategy for the conservation of environmental goods and services provided by ecosystems. These environmental goods and services are indispensable for life, providing the necessary elements for the general well-being of the planet.

These environmental goods and services provided by protected areas are consumed by different economic agents, either in their consumption or production decisions. These consumption and production decisions are made without considering the total economic value of the environmental goods and services that protected areas provide, resulting in suboptimal conditions.

Ubicación: Parque Nacional El Palmar, provincia de  Entre Ríos, Argentina. Imagen: María Cruz Berasategui // Location: El Palmar National Park, Entre Ríos province, Argentina. Image: María Cruz Berasategui

This situation arises because there is no market where these types of environmental or ecosystem goods and services are exchanged, but this does not imply that they do not have an economic value and that conserving them is not costly. If we were to consider the total economic value of these environmental goods and services, we would realize the high price we would have to pay for their consumption.

This situation where the consumption of environmental goods and services is not reflected in the market price, from the economic point of view, is called market failure. More precisely, it is a negative externality where consumers do not pay the true value of the goods and services consumed and it is the society that bears the costs of preserving them.

This situation, in which there is no payment for the consumption of environmental goods and services offered by protected areas, together with the scarcity of budget allocations for their effective management, results in the impossibility of effective management and, therefore, in the inability to fulfill the objectives for which they were created. Emerton et al. (2006) (1) defined the concept of financial sustainability of protected areas as “the capacity to ensure stable and sufficient long-term financial resources and to distribute them in a timely and appropriate manner to cover the total costs of PAs (both direct and indirect) and to ensure that PAs are effectively and efficiently managed according to their conservation and other relevant objectives”.

Parque Provincial Aconcagua, Provincia de Mendoza, Argentina. Imagen: María Cruz Berasategui // Aconcagua Provincial Park, Mendoza Province, Argentina. Image: María Cruz BerasateguiFinancial sustainability is a strategy that requires identifying which economic actors are the consumers of the environmental goods and services of protected areas and/or protected area systems, in order to achieve, through different financial mechanisms, a solution to the negative externality by getting them to pay for their consumption.

In this way and under the economic theory that understands the environmental problem as a negative externality where instruments must be built to be able to internalize it, other alternative and complementary sources of financing to the annual governmental allocation are incorporated into the available budget and can respond to solve the problem.

These different sources of financing – alternative or complementary to governmental allocations- have different characteristics in terms of origin, stability, time horizon, ease and speed of implementation, and also the financial mechanisms that allow their management and execution.

The financial sustainability strategy should ensure that these alternative and complementary sources of financing generate a stable and long-term budget to plan and fulfill the objectives for which the protected areas were created.

To carry out the financial sustainability strategy, it is necessary to define the budget for optimal management of the protected areas and to determine the gap between the budget for optimal management and the currently available budget.

Parque Nacional El Palmar, provincia de Entre Ríos, Argentina. Imagen: María Cruz Berasategui // Location: El Palmar National Park, Entre Ríos province, Argentina. Image: María Cruz Berasategui

A study on the Financial Sustainability of Protected Areas in Latin America and the Caribbean (2) shows a financing gap of US$314 million/year for basic management activities to be undertaken. This reflects the scarcity of economic resources throughout the region. 

Some countries in the region have been building their financial sustainability strategies. For example, Herencia Colombia contributes to achieving the international goals that Colombia has set to conserve and increase its protected areas and guarantee its integration into landscapes and sectors, through the design and subsequent implementation of a long-term financing model for the National System of Protected Areas (SINAP). 

Argentina does not currently have a financial sustainability strategy for protected areas at the national level, but, for example, Natura International has carried out its first sustainability strategy study for the National Protected Areas System (SINAP) in conjunction with the Province of Salta, with a first approximation of the financial gap and the identification of potential sources of funding according to the corresponding theoretical framework. 

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Provincia de Santa Cruz, Argentina. Ph: María Cruz Berasategui // Los Glaciares National Park, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Image: María Cruz Berasategui

This step taken by the Province of Salta will be a very important milestone for provincial protected area systems and a motivating element to understand that the financial sustainability of protected areas is one of the central elements in conservation strategies. Well-conserved ecosystems maximize their potential to provide environmental goods and services for present and future generations. Therefore, the financial sustainability of protected areas is sought to continue providing these environmental goods and services that generate so much well-being and satisfaction.

It is important to raise awareness that protected areas are not only an alternative for biodiversity conservation but also a way to preserve the environmental goods and services necessary for life. In this way, society will value the environmental, cultural, social, and economic benefits it receives from natural protected areas.

  1. Emerton, L., Bishop, J. and Thomas, L. (2006). Sustainable Financing of Protected Areas: A global review of challenges and options. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK. x + 97p.
  2. Bovarnick, A., J. Fernández-Baca, J. Galindo and H. Negret, Financial Sustainability of protected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean: guide for investment policy, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), 2010

By Claudina Gonzalez

There is a lot of talk about sustainable tourism. Public sector plans and programs, private products and enterprises, academic programs and curricula always and without exception include the concept of sustainability. A different discussion is whether this inclusion is merely declaratory or if it is accompanied by good, real, and verifiable practices.

What is certain is that the development of sustainable tourism is a continuous process that requires good planning as well as constant monitoring of its impacts, in order to introduce necessary preventive or corrective measures. Ideally, the tourist experience must be both satisfactory for the traveler and educational, understanding tourism as an opportunity to learn more about the natural and cultural environments, to value them, to protect them and to be able to transmit this message to others.

Each year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) frames its work agenda with a theme. Recently, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development” to highlight the potential of tourism and its contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That same year, the organization strongly supported the statement “Why Tourism Matters”. The evidence included sustainable tourism’s capacity to generate employment, its contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product, economic growth, promoting understanding between peoples, cultural conservation, the enhancement and conservation of the environment and development in general.

In Argentina, tourism constitutes an extremely dynamic sector of the economy. In 2018, the production of goods and services associated with tourism was 5.7% of GDP. Jobs associated with tourism were 1,269,070, or 6.2% of the total economy, in the sectors of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, transportation companies for tourism purposes (commercial airlines, tourist trains, fluvial, maritime, automotive); and in the usage of beaches, recreational parks, reserves, museums, convention centers, fairgrounds and other spaces for the reception of visitors and related activities.

Tourism is an activity that is present and dynamic in all regions and, very importantly, it is mostly made up of micro, small and medium-sized companies (practically the entire sector: 99.1%).

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

However, all this activity must be properly managed. Careful management, respectful of natural and cultural values, is a commitment that must be assumed by governments at different levels, but also by host communities, tourism companies and providers, civil society organizations and, very importantly, the travelers themselves.

With sustainability as a focus, nature can drive a resilient economy in the long term. International organizations such as the Inter-american Development Bank and the World Bank, as well as the World Tourism Organization, reaffirm the value of nature tourism and its role in sustainable development: for poverty alleviation; as a factor for economic growth; as a tool for biodiversity conservation; and in its contribution to the fulfillment of key international agreements and conventions, such as the aforementioned “Agenda 2030”.

Argentina has an amazing endowment of natural resources that, with local and regional distinctiveness, extends throughout the country, forming a natural capital of great wealth and a tourist attraction of enormous potential.

Argentina contains enormous environmental diversity, outstanding for encompassing an almost complete gradient of ecosystems that include lowland subtropical forests, mountain forests, semi-arid subtropical forests, flooded savannas, deserts, humid temperate forests, grasslands, high mountain, marine and polar ecosystems. It contains the Guaraní Aquifer -one of the main subterranean freshwater reservoirs; it has the second-largest number of glaciers of any Latin American country; and is among the 15 countries in the world with the largest ice-covered surface, which makes it one of the main strategic freshwater reserves in the world.

Natural protected areas are an enormous attraction for tourism. According to information from the Federal System of Protected Areas (SiFAP), the country has more than 500 registered protected areas, of different jurisdiction and management, representing 13.29% of the national continental territory, with a total surface area of 36,947,536 hectares. National parks, interjurisdictional marine parks, national reserves, nature reserves and natural monuments, provincial parks, nature reserves, provincial reserves, municipal areas, private areas, wildlife refuges, Ramsar sites, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites make up some of the country’s main tourist attractions.

This diversity of environments, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, with their flora and fauna (vast collections of birds, fish, mammals, plants, amphibians and reptiles, among others), offers the possibility of thinking strategically about nature tourism as the engine of pandemic recovery, laying the groundwork for tourism to consolidate as an essential part of the national economy, framed within a broader agenda of sustainable development.

Nature tourism (including active tourism and ecotourism) was already one of the most developed tourism practices and one of the most in demand globally prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, with a growth rate three times higher than that of tourism in general, according to the UNWTO.

On the demand side, there are several social and demographic factors at the global level that explain this process of seeking nature and open spaces in travel: well-informed consumers with greater environmental awareness, on the one hand; and the densification and growth of cities, with lives marked by confinement in artificial spaces and affected by stressful situations, on the other. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban environments. This makes urban, artificial spaces routine and, by contrast, contact with nature in leisure time more valuable. In Argentina, the urban population is 92%. Unique and well-preserved natural settings, in contrast to other types of already saturated destinations, appear desirable and are highly motivating for this demand.

The natural scenery and the activities that take place in nature are desirable to tourists seeking transforming and memorable experiences in their travels. In addition to the above attraction factors, several studies point to the benefits of regular contact with natural spaces and the performance of activities in them, with positive impacts on physical and mental health.

From a developmental point of view, and given the enormous comparative advantages in terms of natural resources that characterize Argentina, a truly sustainable practice of nature tourism offers the opportunity to consolidate itself as an economically profitable and viable activity.

In addition, nature tourism tends to generate longer average stays and higher spending by travelers. The increase in the length of stay and expenditure variables can be explained, in part, by the variety of recreational activities that natural areas support. The greater the diversity of activities offered by a destination, the more attractive and interesting that area will be and, therefore, justify an extension of the stay with the consequent associated spending.

Sustainable nature tourism is, in turn, a vehicle for social development. This sector requires hiring local entrepreneurs and guides, and stimulates the development of tourism businesses (travel agencies, transportation, lodging, food, handicrafts, recreational and complementary activities), thus enabling the diversification of the productive matrix and the generation of local employment in many of the regional economies and communities that, in some cases are very neglected, and do not have the possibility of developing other productive activities.

At the same time, by including educational aspects and nature interpretation, it raises awareness among both locals and travelers about the importance of conserving natural environments, helping to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In short, sustainable tourism (according to the UNWTO) is “tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

With the exception of a minority of natural protected areas created and devoted exclusively to scientific research, monitoring and environmental conservation, most natural areas conceive, along with the conservation function, a social function provided by the public use of these spaces, taking into account their recreational and educational tourism value.

In the generation of new protected areas as well as the proper management of existing ones, tourism can be considered a compatible activity, which requires providing destinations with appropriate infrastructure that prioritizes the planning and conservation dimensions in the public use of these spaces, and that enables access to and allows for visitation and enjoyment of natural destinations that are perceived as valuable but are still emerging.

There is an opportunity in the development of nature tourism. But also, and inseparably, there is a duty: to include sustainability in the daily activities.