The Source, our Annual Review 2019

Thousands of fishing livelihoods depend on the health of the Paraná Delta.

Plans for the Hidrovia Waterway have been revived in 2019. This would make a shipping highway 50 metres wide from the Pantanal to the ocean. It is a major threat to the Paraná Delta.

So how to do it? We have explored this during 2019 by developing with the National Ministry of Environment a handbook on how to draw up environmental impact assess- ments for development projects in wetland ecosystems. Most ranchers have traditionally practiced “island ranch- ing”, releasing their cattle onto the unfenced marshes for fattening in summer. That works fine. But in recent years, ranchers have increased their stocking rates in the delta, leading to overgrazing and soil erosion. Worse, they have constructed dams and dikes to divert water and prevent their grazing land from being flooded. Such works clearly damage the delta. So, we are encourag- ing ranchers to adapt to the wetland hydrology, by moving their cattle with the water. “Instead of decoupling the farm- land from the wetland, we want them to take advantage of the flooding pulse to improve the quality of forage and pastures,” says Ruben Quintana from the National Universi- ty of San Martin. In 2019, we piloted this new approach with seven ranchers operating on 14,000 hectares across the delta. The ranches range in size from an 8500-hectare estate on one of the Ibicuy islands, to 120 hectares near Gualeguay.

The delta has more than 30 protected areas. In 2016, the government designated more than 240,000 hectares for a new Ramsar site. In August, we published a management plan for the site, developed with the government. We also launched with local partners a strategy for maintaining a biodiversity corridor through the delta, to connect protect- ed areas and maintain passage for native species such as the critically endangered marsh deer (see Saving the Marsh Deer, page 75). But piecemeal protection is not enough when the entire hydrology of the delta is under threat and when ranchers and developers see its very wetness as an impediment. Land-filling, sand mining, and the construction of dikes, homes, industry, ports and other infrastructure, are all gath- ering pace. Such developments are short-sighted. For the delta’s hydrology is economically as well as ecologically important. It sustains fishing, hunting of coypu, beekeeping, handicrafts made from its rushes, tourism and recreation. An economic assessment we commissioned concluded that 80% of the direct economic benefit came from cattle rais - ing, which is of growing importance as traditional grazing lands on the pampas are taken over by soy crops. But it also found that the indirect value of ecosystem services, such as flood control and buffering against storms, was four times higher. That means ranching needs to be carried out in a way that does not damage the wider services.

At a workshop we organised in August, producer Carlos Weber summarised the dilemma that ranchers face be-

The Paraná Delta sustains livelihoods from fishing, beekeeping, tourism and handicrafts



Wetlands Annual Review 2019

Wetlands Annual Review 2019

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