By Natura International

Through a Framework Cooperation Agreement between the Secretariat of the Environment of the Province of La Rioja and Natura International, the Simultaneous International Flamingo Census was coordinated in the Laguna Brava Provincial Reserve in February 2020.

Within this framework, an inaugural ceremony was held with the participation of provincial authorities of the Government of the Province of La Rioja and mayors of the departments surrounding the reserve to discuss the importance of monitoring a flagship species such as the flamingo and the need to work together between the municipalities and the province to advance nature tourism and the regulation of existing provincial protected areas.

Laguna brava – La Rioja – Argentina

In addition, a training session was held for students of the Environmental Management Technique of the University of La Rioja, technicians of the Secretariat of the Environment, and technicians of the Municipality of the Talampaya National Park with the aim of telling them about the work to be carried out to evaluate the state of the wetland and the populations of flamingos living in it. We consider it a positive initiative for them to join the census next year and take an active part in the monitoring.

The census was conducted by experts from the High Andean Flamingo Conservation Group (GCFA) and yielded the following results: 1,400 Andean flamingos (Phoenicoparrus andinus), 940 Greater flamingos (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), and approximately 290 Southern flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis). This census was carried out in a range of ten days, in four countries simultaneously: Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. The results allowed for a better understanding of the status of the flamingo population and the wetlands in which they live, as well as the identification of threats to their conservation.

Flamingos, Laguna Brava. RAMSAR site – La Rioja, Argentina.

Laguna Brava, an oasis for flamingos.

Laguna Brava stands out not only because of its extension and an altitude above 3500 meters, but also because it is an area of preservation of species and biodiversity. These environments are a true oasis and refuge for the migratory birds that arrive each spring to feed and nest, such as the Andean and Puno flamingos.

On the other hand, it is a zone very visited by tourists, whose main attraction is the enjoyment of nature and the sighting of flamingos in their natural habitat. It is a very important resource for the tourist activity and for the same reason it requires a high responsibility to ensure its conservation.

In February 2003, the Laguna Brava Provincial Reserve was designated a Ramsar Site, and is the 12th such site in Argentina. In August 2012, the Secretary of the Environment of the Province of La Rioja issued a provision declaring the area a Multiple Use Reserve Laguna Brava, being one of the most important Protected Areas in the province. Both figures are management tools that allow us to work on strategies for the conservation and protection of this wonderful wetland and all the biodiversity that lives in it.

 

Federico Kopta, Biólogo
Foro Ambiental Córdoba – Asociación Civil

In addition to destroying vegetation and wildlife, and polluting the air, bush and grass fires accelerate soil erosion, promote flooding, decrease infiltration that feeds the slopes, and promote the siltation and eutrophication of lakes

This is the fire season in Cordoba and central Argentina, including the Delta, due to the absence of rain, low humidity, strong winds, and occasionally high temperatures in late winter and early spring. In addition to this, frost-dried vegetation is a very combustible element.

In addition to the natural conditions, the man also starts fires accidentally or intentionally, such as when they occur to change the use of the land to plant crops or real estate, to obtain regrowth for livestock, to remove herbaceous vegetation next to banks or wastelands, to burn garbage, or simply to do damage, among many other reasons.

 

Fires in Rosario – Argentina. Courtesy Ignacio Moreno

Forest fires are particularly pernicious in the mountainous area where rivers originate because, by drastically affecting the plant cover, they leave the soil unprotected from erosive agents, especially rainwater.

Vegetation has three functions in the regulation of water and soil in the mountainous area or headwaters, as it acts as

  •         An umbrella with its leaves, preventing the drops of rainwater from impacting the soil with energy, disintegrating it.
  •         A sponge made up of foliage and leaf litter, retaining water and allowing it to infiltrate the soil and groundwater layers.
  •         A net made of roots and leaf litter, mechanically supporting the soil from the water’s dragging.

The loss of vegetation cover by the action of the fire has consequences:

  •   Water erosion of the soil.
  • Loss of organic matter from the soil, which, although it receives the contribution of ashes, quickly loses them through erosion
  • Flooding, because water runs violently down the surface without being retained by vegetation.
  • Contamination of watercourses with mud and ashes.
  • Clogging (or filling with sediment) of lakes, with the soil dragged from the mountains.
  • Eutrophication of lakes, as algae have more nutrients to multiply and in turn pollute the water.
  • The drought of the slopes in winter and spring, due to lack of water infiltration into the soil and underground layers during the rainy season.
  •  Destruction of wildlife habitat.

Fires – Sierras de Córdoba – Argentina

It is therefore essential to prevent forest and grassland fires, bearing in mind that 99% of them are caused by human beings. One of the fundamental strategies is to support education on the subject from the educational centers, to reduce the number of fire spots produced. But on the other hand, an early warning system is needed, consisting of watchmen, who in the face of a column of smoke alert an initial combat team or first attack, so that they can extinguish the fire before it spreads and causes a fire of magnitude. Another fundamental factor is an investigation so that those who cause the fires are brought to justice, and that deters them from being set.

By Natura International

According to a United Nations study, around one million animal and plant species are currently endangered and many could disappear in just a few decades. This is an unprecedented level of threat in human history.

The global rate of extinct species is already at least ten to one hundred times the average rate over the last ten million years and is accelerating. Seventy-five percent of terrestrial and 66 percent of marine ecosystems are already “seriously disturbed”. More than 85% of the wetlands that existed in 1700 have been lost.

What are the threats?

Threats to the survival of hundreds of species range from habitat loss and/or degradation due to activities associated with renewable resource extraction industries (such as livestock and agriculture) to roadkill, capture, illegal hunt and persecution, to petting and urban sprawl. Every one of these threats is man-made.

Crowned Eagle – Endangered species – Natura Argentina

During the past month, we at Natura International wanted to focus on at least six of the Endangered species we found in Argentina. Many of which are not recognized as native and at-risk species outside the academic community. Thus, we talked about Aguará Guazú, which is the largest of the South American foxes, and the Guanaco, whose ecological role is important in arid ecosystems, and the Chaco subpopulation is significantly reduced.

The Andean cat, a little known feline and considered one of the most endangered species of the American continent. Many have known the Pecarí Quimilero that has a particular ability to remove the thorns from the cacti that feed it. We marvel at images of birds such as the Crowned Eagle that are beneficial to the environment in which they live since they feed on animals such as poisonous snakes or rodents of medical importance. Or the Andean Condor, the largest flying land bird on the planet that dies from accidentally ingesting the poisoned bait that many producers use to fight foxes and cougars.

Guanaco – Endangered species – Natura Argentina

When we discover how wonderful these animals are, we are challenged from the depths to think about at least two things: we realize the importance of their existence and we feel responsible for their survival. If you want to discover and get closer to these species, visit our Instagram and Facebook account and share the information with others, because we understand that the first step to PROTECT is to KNOW. Will you help us?

By Ana Di Pangracio
(Deputy Director of Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales – FARN)

Wetlands are ecosystems with enormous biological, social, cultural, and economic value. But wetlands are being lost and degraded every day. The Ramsar Convention estimates that 87% of the global wetland area has disappeared in the last 300 years.

These ecosystems are perceived by some sectors of society as wastelands, lands that need to be filled in, bringing with them negative socio-environmental impacts. Major drivers of wetland loss include agriculture and livestock production, mining and other extractive industries, urbanization, invasive species, climate change, and pollution from domestic and industrial waste.

Argentina has a great diversity of wetlands, about 21% of its surface includes wetland ecosystems. The country is no stranger to the globally identified pressures that are causing wetland loss and degradation.

Carpinchos, Esteros del Iberá National Park. Province of Corrientes, Argentina.

Therefore, Argentina needs an environmental protection law for wetlands, which is the result of wide and effective participation, integrating the vision from the territories, of the people who live, work and know the wetlands. The importance of wetlands and the need to protect them must be on the political agenda of governments.

The fire crisis in the Paraná Delta has renewed the discussion of a Wetlands Law in the National Congress. To date, there are eleven bills for consideration by legislators in both Houses. After information sessions, the parliamentary committees reached by this initiative will begin meetings for formal discussion, agreeing as far as possible on a single text, and issuing an opinion so that it can be dealt with in the chamber. Once approved by one of the Chambers, the project is then evaluated by the other which can either approve it without changes or introduce modifications in which case it will return to the Chamber of origin. The latter may approve it by accepting the changes or insist on the original wording for which it will need the same or a higher majority than the House of Review. If this is not achieved, the text adopted in the reviewing Chamber is approved.

In Argentina, the provinces are the owners of the natural resources existing in their territories according to article 124 of the National Constitution (NC). But, to avoid the disintegration of policies, in pursuit of the common good, and to achieve uniform protection of the environment throughout the country, the provinces delegated to the Nation, in section 41 of the CN, the power to sanction laws of minimum environmental budgets. These are standards that aim to impose the necessary conditions to ensure environmental protection, establishing a minimum floor of protection that the provinces may complement, even providing for more demanding requirements, but never be below the established national minimum base.

A Wetland Law needs to be governed from an ecocentric vision and under principles such as the ecosystemic, preventive, precautionary, non-regression, intergenerational equity, indubio pro-nature, indubio pro aqua, transparency and participation, rights perspective (including interculturality and gender approach), and protection of common goods.

Esteros del Iberá National Park. Province of Corrientes, Argentina. Kayak trip.

A precise definition of wetlands, a national enforcement authority with proactive and comprehensive powers, budget allocations to meet challenges, the development of wetland inventory and land use planning, and impact assessment tools such as strategic environmental assessment, environmental impact assessment, and cumulative impact assessment are some of the backbone elements of national law.

Some strategic areas of work in the Wetlands Law are conservation, environmentally friendly use and restoration of wetlands; legal clarity in access and tenure of land and natural assets; support for scientific research, traditional knowledge, and citizen science; collaborative work with other government plans, programs and projects; monitoring and evaluation of established objectives and goals; environmental awareness and education; and capacity building and institutional strengthening.

The COVID 19 pandemic, which is causing so much human suffering, makes it clear that the more we alter ecosystems, the more we are at risk. And no sector of society is exempt from this. We must build a new relationship with nature. Banish limited visions of ” good quality of life” focused only on consumption and unlimited accumulation, and give rise to new ones that ensure social and environmental justice.

Passing a Wetlands Act would be a step in the right direction. We are confident that the National Congress will rise to the occasion.

By Byron Swift
Founder of Natura International

Whose responsibility is it to address the imminent threats of climate change? There is no doubt that governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play.

The most serious problem is that the cycles that sustain life on Earth are under threat. We are talking not only about climate change, but about the other natural cycles such as oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. All these cycles originate from what is left of the natural world and provide us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we can eat, and a stable climate, among other essential elements. Each of these life cycles is based on its own complex set of resources and interactions, but the basic resource underlying most of them is our planet’s plant biomass, the basis of our living Earth, which is contained around 50% in natural forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and 50% in plankton in the oceans.

Pilcomayo River, Province of Salta – Argentina

Human society is doing everything possible to destroy this living biomass, through actions that lead to desertification, deforestation, and pollution. In short, time is running out for the actions needed to save the planet and its ecosystems.

Yalguaraz Wetland, Uspallata, Province of Mendoza – Argentina

Funding to address critical environmental issues remains low. We are simply not reacting quickly enough or urgently enough. Up to now, human activities have caused the loss of one-third of our natural vegetation since pre-industrial times and 40% of the plankton in the oceans. The rate of destruction is accelerating. We are approaching the end of the game and the time needed to address these issues is almost gone.

Now is the time to act if we want to maintain these essential ecosystems and their global functions, as well as preserve our natural heritage for future generations!