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The wetlands ... That source of fresh water

The wetlands ... That source of fresh water


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By Cristian Frers

The term wetlands encompasses a wide variety of environments, which share a property that differentiates them from terrestrial ecosystems: the presence of water as a characteristic element. This element plays a fundamental role in determining its structure and functions within ecology.

The term wetlands encompasses a wide variety of environments, which share a property that differentiates them from terrestrial ecosystems: the presence of water as a characteristic element. This element plays a fundamental role in determining its structure and functions within ecology.


There are many definitions of the term wetland, the most widely accepted definition is the one related to the Convention on Wetlands, which includes all inland aquatic environments and the coastal marine area and which takes these as: the extensions of marshes, swamps and peat bogs, or surfaces covered with water, be they natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, stagnant or current, fresh, brackish or salty, including extensions of sea water whose depth at low tide does not exceed six meters.

Wetlands play a very important role in the water cycle: they receive water through precipitation (rain, snow or hail), underground water or through streams and rivers, and they release it either to other surface water courses, by infiltration through the soil by forming underground water deposits or by transpiration and evaporation of plants back into the atmosphere.

In general, water accumulates or its circulation is slower in wetlands, its release happens slowly, and this has important effects since wetlands function as regulators of water excesses and deficiencies, help to mitigate floods and recharge and groundwater discharge. Through the retention, transport and transformation of nutrients, sediments and pollutants, they play a very important role in the cycles of matter and in the maintenance of water quality.

Wetlands support important biological diversity and in many cases constitute critical habitats for species that are threatened with extinction. Likewise, given their high productivity, they can house very large populations of animals. Many species are associated with wetlands either at one stage of their life cycle, to nest, rest or feed.

An emblematic example of wetlands is given by migratory shorebirds, which travel every year, in some cases thousands of kilometers from their nesting areas in the Northern Hemisphere, to various wetlands in Argentina, where these birds are concentrated. in large flocks such as in Bahía San Sebastián in the Province of Tierra del Fuego.

Argentina has a large territorial extension where it is not striking to find a great variety of aquatic ecosystems, where many of them are contaminated and others are on the way to being contaminated, the most significant are:

-Esteros of Iberá and its environments:

This area of ​​water was formed from an ancient channel of the Paraná River, which left Iberá with its environment of lagoons, estuaries with abundant vegetation, rivers and streams. The Province of Corrientes has taken an appropriate measure to create the Iberá Natural Reserve, of approximately 1,300,000 hectares, which guarantees the conservation of this unique ecosystem.

-Lagunas del Chaco Húmedo and Estero Systems:

There are palm groves, estuaries and ravines, which obtain their water from the association they make with the extreme south of the estuaries of Paraguay, which in turn continue north to the Pantanal of Bolivia and Brazil. There is a great variety of fauna, depending on the availability of water. As well as endangered species such as the aguará-guazú, the river wolf and the swamp deer. Floods are a characteristic of the region. The Río Pilcomayo National Park, of about 55,000 hectares, protects a sample of the region.


-Submeridional Lows:

In the north of the Province of Santa Fe are the so-called Submeridional Basses. This territory of approximately 4,000,000 hectares, crossed by rivers and dotted by lagoons, is under water for four to five months a year.

-Mar Chiquita Lagoon:

To the north of the Province of Córdoba, there is a huge lagoon and the banks of the Dulce River. This lagoon covers an area of ​​about 200,000 hectares, where there is an immense variety of aquatic birds.

-Pampean lagoons and the Salado depression:

The Pampean plain is dotted with permanent and temporary lagoons, which vary according to rainfall. The Salado depression, which is found in the center of the Province of Buenos Aires, is the most characteristic area. Since the early 1960s, a wet cycle began in the region, causing flooding. This situation was aggravated by the construction of roads and the railroad. The water began to move from one place to another causing innumerable inconveniences.

-System of High Andean Lagoons:

In the Puna there are unique aquatic ecosystems. The center of the system is the Laguna de los Pozuelos. Currently, there are mining operations that dump toxic and untreated waste into the tributaries of the lagoon. However, there are no major studies on contamination. There are lagoons that dot the region and the tall peat bogs are also characteristic, habitat of some endemic birds and amphibians.

-Llancanello Lagoon:

It is an immense brackish water lagoon found in the Province of Mendoza. In this system, the total number of aquatic birds exceeds one hundred thirty thousand specimens.

-Adean Patagonian Lakes:

In the south of the Andes Mountains, the glaciers that acted thousands of years ago left their mark on large and deep lakes, which today receive water from the thaw.

-North coast of the Province of Tierra del Fuego:

On this island we find tides that reveal large intertidal silty areas. This area is ideal for several species of migratory birds.

Wetlands provide natural resources of great importance to society. In order to conserve them, their use must be framed within sustainable use. This concept implies the use that produces the greatest continuous benefit for present generations, while maintaining its potential to satisfy the needs and aspirations of future generations.

The most effective tool for achieving wetland management that promotes their conservation and sustainable use through integrated management is the development of management plans. These can be carried out at different scales depending on the objective pursued. They must have an interdisciplinary approach that, through in-depth knowledge of the characteristics and functions of wetlands and the socio-economic aspects of the area, examine the different possible uses of the environment. In order for management plans to be truly effective, they must give importance to the participation of the different sectors involved in the use of natural resources and the local community. Finally, given that wetlands are dynamic zones with temporal variability, management plans must be subject to permanent analysis and revision.

For centuries, wetlands were considered marginal lands that had to be drained or recovered, either to improve sanitary conditions or to affect production, mainly the expansion of agricultural or urban areas. It is estimated that due to human activity, more than 50% of the world's wetland area has been lost.

The loss of wetlands can have other causes in addition to direct actions to drain and restore them. The alterations produced by the large works carried out in the hydrographic basins (such as dams and pipelines), the extraction of water for consumption, the environmental modifications caused by deforestation and pollution, among other factors, also seriously affect wetlands.

Although in recent years the idea that wetlands should be conserved for the benefits they represent for humanity has spread, the knowledge of these environments must be deepened in order to properly value them.

Cristian Frers - Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication


Video: Ecosystems Episode 5: The Wetland Ecosystem! 4K (June 2022).


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