In Argentina, soybean currently accounts for over 60% of the cultivated area of the country and is the main crop for biodiesel production, making Argentina the world’s fourth largest producer of biofuels and the largest exporter. The distribution of soybean cultivation areas largely overlaps with wetland distribution. Soy covers mainly the central-eastern region of the country north of Patagonia, overlapping with the highest concentration and area of wetlands in the country. The overlap is in particular large with wetlands located in the Chaco and Pampas regions; to a lesser extent with La Plata Basin and only marginally in the north of Patagonia.
Figure 1: Main wetlands sites in Argentina in primary and secondary areas of soy cultivation (dark and light yellow), including Ramsar sites in green (a-f) and other relevant wetlands in blue dots (1-12).
Figure 2: Trend of soybean cultivated area in Argentina. Source: MAGyP.
The expansion of soybean cultivation has resulted in moderate to high impacts on wetlands for some areas of the soybean production region, mainly due to land reclamation for agricultural use. This is evident in the southeast of Córdoba province and around the Albufera Mar Chiquita in the province of Buenos Aires, with up to 40% reduction in the area of wetlands. In the case of the Bañados de Saladillo reclamation resulted in system degradation and connectivity loss.
Biodiversity loss in wetlands has been reported in southern Córdoba and it is possible that the same process is happening in other sectors of the soybean production region. In other cases, it has been documented that wetlands loss has led to direct loss of ecosystem services of local and regional importance. In the case of the Parana Delta, farming intensification as a direct consequence of the expansion of soybean, affected traditional farming practices, resulting in the large fires in 2008, which burned 207,000 ha.
Further reading on soy cultivation and wetlands in Argentina:
Photo: soyfields in Ramallo Buenos Aires province by Rubén Quintana
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