Esteros del Iberá: the second great South American wetland

The Iberá Wetlands, located in the northeast of Argentina, represent the second largest wetland in South America, after the Brazilian Pantanal .

Iberá Wetland, in Argentina

The Iberá wetland, Argentina, is the second largest in the world after the Pantanal in Brazil and one of the most important freshwater reservoirs in America. / Photo: Flickr / General Coordination of Earth Observation / INPE

The Woman Post | Jorge Guasp

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Leer en español: Esteros del Iberá: el segundo gran humedal sudamericano

The importance of wetlands in the world

According to the organization Wetlands International, “wetlands cover a small percentage of the earth's surface; however, they are essential systems. They are the arteries and veins of the landscape. They are rich in biodiversity and vital to human life. They act as sources of water and purifiers, and protect the coasts. They are the largest natural carbon deposits on the planet. They are crucial for agriculture and fishing. A world without wetlands is a world without water ”.

Natural and cultural value of the Iberá Wetlands

The Ramsar.org site explains that “the Ramsar Convention currently has 168 Contracting Parties (member countries) and is named after the Iranian city where the treaty was signed in 1971. Through this agreement, the member countries commit to do the following: make wise use of all its wetlands; designate sites for inclusion on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites) and conserve them; cooperate on transboundary wetlands and other common interests ”.

“The Esteros del Iberá, which have been said to be the greatest unknown attraction in Argentina, are an impressive wetland that covers 13,000 square kilometers, about 14.6% of the province of Corrientes, in the northeast of Argentina . The estuaries are of vital importance for the region's water resources and hydrology, as well as being the habitat of important populations of rare or endangered species (A Ramsar case study on wetlands and tourism - Wetland Tourism: Argentina , The Iberá Wetlands).

“Iberá is a refuge for a culture crossed by water but also for a conjunction of historical circumstances that attracted beings with knowledge, beliefs and guidelines of conduct from the Jesuit missions, Creoles with viceregal customs, leather merchants and some indomitable spirits that had to reinvent themselves to survive such a particular geography ” (La Cultura del Estero - parqueibera.corrientes.gob.ar).

The Esteros del Iberá in state protected natural areas

The Iberá Provincial Park is located inside the Natural Reserve of the same name, created in 1983 and with an area of 1,300,000 ha. The park has almost 500,000 ha, it was born in 2009 and its administration is the responsibility of the Argentine province of Corrientes. Unlike the Reserve, which includes private lands, the Provincial Park is in the public domain, a situation that facilitates the control of activities.

“The Mburucuyá National Park is located in Mburucuyá, province of Corrientes. It has a surface area of 17,086 hectares belonging to the Esteros del Iberá ecoregion. The lands that became the Mburucuyá National Park on June 27, 2001, through Law 25,447, were donated by a Danish couple, the lawyer and naturalist Troels Myndel Pedersen and his wife Nina Sinding ”(argentina.gob .ar).

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On December 5, 2018, through National Law 27,481, the Congress of the Argentine Nation approved the creation of the Iberá National Park, of some 157,000 ha, in the Argentine province of Corrientes. The same rule also contemplates the creation of the Iberá National Reserve, of some 23,000 ha.

This creation was possible thanks to the transfer of the jurisdiction of the province of Corrientes to the national state, and to the donation of the lands, also to the Argentine nation, by the foundations Conservation Land Trust and Flora y Fauna Argentina, organizations created by Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine McDivitt in order to purchase land for strategic nature conservation.

Nature conservation and ecotourism

“Aguapés, poppies and water spangles are some of the floating species that cover the surface of the lagoons, forming camalotales. These give rise to the reservoirs, and the soil that allows the plants to take root is deposited on their vegetal fabric ”(Esteros del Iberá, Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina).

According to the Iberá Chamber of Tourism, created in 2004 in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini and made up of residents, tourist entrepreneurs, park rangers and guides, “Iberá's environments are home to abundant populations of mammals, among which are the most charismatic animals of Corrientes, such as the capybara, the aguará-guazú, the river wolf or true otter and the deer of the swamps. Furthermore, the region's grasslands offer one of its last habitats to an animal in serious danger of extinction, the pampas deer ”.

Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is located on the shores of the Iberá Lagoon, a water mirror that can be crossed by boats. Floating in the middle of the lagoon allows you to observe specimens of swamp deer, capybaras and alligators, as well as an astonishing diversity of birds on its shores. This small town, immersed in the estuaries, also offers the alternative of horseback riding, hiking and cycling. Given that the human population is scarce, it is common to observe animals, even from the gardens of the various accommodations that the town offers.

Esteros del Iberá: a treasure to discover and preserve

It is likely that, before knowing the place,  an extension of floodplains and lagoons will not attract the attention of potential visitors. However, it is enough to know the Esteros del Iberá to surrender to its beauty, to enjoy contemplating animals, and to understand that, due to the natural and cultural wealth that this wetland contains, its conservation is a priority.