With their project focused on the ecological restoration of the Carapacho wetlands in Mendoza, Argentina, Wetlands International Argentina have won the 14th Fundación Vida Silvestre and Coca-Cola Argentina Water Project Competition. The competition has occurred every year since 2006, and was initiated to promote water conservation projects in Argentina and improve overall accessibility to water throughout the country. Wetlands International Argentina’s winning project in Mendoza trained local farmers to better cattle-rising manage practice, one of the primaries uses and threats to these wetlands.
Restoring the Llancanelo Lagoon and wetlands
The Llancanelo Lagoon, one of Mendoza’s best kept treasures, is a saltwater ‘mirror’ lake located at an altitude of 1,300 metres at the foot of the mountains, in a semi-desert environment. Located near the city of Malargüe, this large wetland is a Ramsar site and nature reserve home to a wide and diverse range of fauna in its 92,000 hectares. With more than 90 species of water birds, with swans and flamingos amongst them, the wetland is teeming with life. Being a saline lagoon, it is the marshes surrounding the lagoon that generate and retain the freshwater essential to pastures in the area for their livestock. However, not all wetlands there are in good health.
The Carapacho wetlands are threatened by overgrazing, prolonged droughts, fires, the impact of wild boars and the tamarind tree, an invasive species. The wetlands have been degraded, and instead of retaining water in their system, water is being lost to erosion channels that accelerate the flow of freshwater into the lagoon. Without any intervention, the wetlands will lose their productivity, which will in turn affect the flora and fauna of the area, the structure of the wetlands, the composition of the lagoon, biodiversity, and pastures that depend on them.
Wetlands International Argentina have proposed a restoration project for this iconic wetland in the province of Mendoza to recover 100 hectares of the wetlands through small interventions that include flow management, sediment retention, recovery of watercourse base levels and revegetation through swamp trenches. Together with local pastures and farmers, they seek to better manage and reduce the impact of their cattle grazing.
The project will benefit the biodiversity of the area, but also the community that directly depends on it – 15 families whose livelihoods are directly linked to the wetlands, the park rangers and technicians of the Laguna de Llancanelo Provincial Reserve, 120 teachers and students from the Carapacho Primary and Secondary School, and the tourism that the wetlands attract.
The aim is to carry out the project activities throughout 2021 and finish them before the end of the year, if the restrictions of the pandemic allow it.
A team effort
The restoration work will be carried out together with Wetlands International Argentina’s team of specialists, the park rangers, and students of the “Higher Technique in Nature Conservation of the Institute of Physical Education 9-016, Dr. Jorge E. Coll”. The local communities will also play a key role.
“Fortunately, we have ensured local capacity, which allows us to carry out the tasks in the territory despite the difficulties in transport that were imposed by the pandemic,” explains Heber Sosa, Field Coordinator and expert associated with Wetlands International Argentina.
About the Water Project Competition
This is the third time that Wetlands International Argentina has won the Water Project Competition. The first was in 2010 with the Lagunas de Guanacache restoration project, also located in the province of Mendoza, starting an 8-year programme supported by AVINA Foundation and Coca Cola. This project ended last year with exceptional results, benefiting 300 families, whose livelihoods have been secured due to the water that has now accumulated in the project area. The second time was in 2015, with a project that safeguarded 15 hectares of peat bog in the Rio Valdez Reserve, an important freshwater reservoir located near Ushuaia on the Tierra del Fuego’s Island.
“We have been working for more than ten years on wetland restoration projects as partners of Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina and Fundación Avina, thanks to the support of Coca-Cola Argentina. So, for us to join forces again is very good news,” adds Daniel Blanco, director of Wetlands International Argentina. He reinforces the idea that working in alliance is the most efficient way to meet ambitious goals.