How are wetlands impacted by soy?

Photo: Wetlands in soyfield by Patricia Kandus

In Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, soy expansion results in wetland loss and degradation.  

We identify the following impacts on wetlands:

Loss and degradation of wetlands:

For the conversion of land for agricultural use, many wetlands are being drained. In parts of the Cordoba province for instance, wetland loss has reached 42% due to drainage. In Bañados del Rio Saladillo, no less than 69% of wetlands surface and 20% of the lagoons has disappeared. Important wetland ecosystem services are lost.

Soil health

The increasingly intensified agricultural management, dominated by soybean production, leads to soil erosion and associated sediment deposition in low areas, streams or other water runoff pathways. The loss of ground cover results in loss of biodiversity and changes in water balance. The high rate of deforestation in northern Argentina for instance affects wetlands in areas near or even distant from the source of the problem. Furthermore, soil compaction due to the use of heavy equipment, reduces water infiltration and can lead to run-off of nutrients.

Water use 

There is evidence that the inadequate and excessive use of agrochemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers can bring a high risk of water contamination. This can seriously affect water quality, wildlife and fisheries, ultimately affecting local communities and their sources of income, such as traditional fisheries and beekeeping. People close to wetland areas can also be directly affected through drinking or using contaminated water. This is also a problem in areas where wetlands are important in groundwater replenishment.

Flora and fauna 

Agrochemical pollution has effects on the number of many aquatic and amphibian species generating physiological and behavioural changes that changes the relations of the food web. This directly affects the functioning of the ecosystem, and ultimately the goods and services that wetlands provide to humans. When drained wetlands are lost or degraded breeding and nesting sites are lost.

Indirect land use change 

Traditional land use is pushed to other areas, such as wetlands, due to the expansion of soy cultivation. Read the story on what happened in 2008 to the Parana Delta to where around one million cows were displaced from the surrounding Argentina Pampas.

Read more:

The case of Argentina
What can we do about it?
What is Wetlands International doing about it?
Recommendations for the different players

Contact person

Marta Andelman, Communications coordinator Wetlands International Argentina

Impacts of soybean production on wetlands and water

Impacts of soybean production on wetlands and water