The Patagonian network is strengthened to conserve urban wetlands
"Half of humanity, some 4 billion people, currently lives in urban areas. That proportion will reach 66% in 2050 (...). The cities generate around 80% of the world economic production. The expansion of cities and the increase in demand for land brings with it pressures for wetlands, which are degraded, filled in and used as land for construction. However, urban wetlands that remain intact or are restored contribute to make cities livable, "says a document from the Convention on Wetlands, RAMSAR, issued in the month of the celebration of World Wetlands Day and in a year in which the world motto is "Wetlands for a sustainable urban future".
Wetlands are ecosystems with great biological diversity, regulators of the water and climate cycle, generators of water resources to supply fresh water and constitute areas of use for human activities such as tourism and fishing. Wetland is considered any of the following: natural areas of wet grasslands, peat bogs, swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers, estuaries, deltas, low tides, coastal marine areas, mangroves, coral reefs, waterholes and artificial sites such as ponds fish farms, rice fields, reservoirs and salt mines.
Urban wetlands are found in and around cities and include rivers and floodplains, lakes and marshes, as well as coastal variants such as saltwater marshes, mangroves and coral reefs.
In Río Gallegos they are protected by ordinance No. 6762, which created the System of Urban Natural Reserves, which includes the local estuary, lagoons and spaces with native flora and fauna, which have been recovered since then so as not to lose the numerous environmental benefits granted to local people, while it has managed to stop anthropic action and the filling of coastal marshes for construction.
The Asociación Ambiente Sur has focused its work on the support, conservation and management of these fundamental wetlands to make life sustainable in the city, through promoting actions with different allies, State, private and non-governmental, to generate awareness in the population on the importance of wetlands, with concrete proposals on environmental education, infrastructure, creation and management of local Urban Natural Reserves.
Since 2009, this work has been extended to the regional level, in the Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, being the convenor and promoter of the first meeting held in Río Gallegos, in which the Network of Urban Natural Reserves of Patagonia (RRNUP) was created, which was originally formed with the cities of Río Gallegos, El Calafate, Rio Grande, Ushuaia, El Chaltén, Rio Turbio and 28 de Noviembre , in Argentina, and Punta Arenas, in Chile. In the last two years, Curaco de Vélez and Maullín joined Chile.
Given the need to strengthen the conservation of wetlands throughout the region and understanding as fundamental the functioning of the network that unites them, Ambiente Sur develops the Urban Wetlands Project in Patagonia, with funding from the Wetlands for the Future Fund, of the Convention on RAMSAR Wetlands, the State Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the latter from the USA, and this year we also have the support of Patagonia Environmental Grants and the "Connecting Communities ..." Project for this work, Phase II, which the Association implements along with its Chilean partner, the Marine Conservation NGO.
The RNUs that protect the different localities that are part of the Patagonian Network include environments of Patagonian Andean Forest, Magallanes Forest, Valdivian Forest, Patagonian Steppe, Atlantic and Pacific Coast. That is, they cover a very large range of environments with different characteristics but linked by similar qualities, problems and management and work tools. Wetlands exist in all the protected areas of these cities. There are present rivers, estuaries, permanent and temporary lagoons. Many of them are habitat for species of special value such as the Gray-throated Plover (Pluvianellus socialis), Red-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris canutus rufa), Becasa de Mar (Limosa haemastica), Trimming Sandpiper (Numenius phaeopus), Cauquén Colorado (Cloephaga rubidiceps), Maca Tobiano (Podiceps gallardoi), Choique (Rhea pennata), Condor (Vultur gryphus), Piche (Zaedyus pichiy), Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) and Puma (Puma concolor).
The meetings of the RNU Network of Patagonia allow the training of its members, the exchange of experiences in the management of the sites and the strengthening of the work articulated in each city of the region. In fact, the Asociación Ambiente Sur has played an active role in promoting the creation of urban nature reserves in Southern Patagonia, the most recent being El Chaltén, where two RNUs were established by municipal ordinance, and in Río Grande , with the support to the conformation of the System of RNU of that city with the creation of two reserves. In 2017, the network was strengthened with two annual meetings, training and exchanges, which were held in Río Gallegos and Punta Arenas.
In 2018, the objective is to develop with greater emphasis and reach an awareness-raising strategy in the region, in order to put the Network even more valuable, and to hold five participatory workshops for its members in different locations. Two of these workshops will be devoted to training in conservation planning, as a tool to advance the strategies of each site.
With the strengthening of networking in the protected wetlands of the cities of the region, it will be possible to develop a training program for the training of people who fulfill functions as Conservation Agents in the different areas, organize social marketing campaigns in order to to value the areas for neighboring populations, generate debate meetings and prepare a document to request that the figure of the Urban Natural Reserve (RNU) be ranked at the national level. These objectives are common interests to all areas and will benefit a large area of wetlands present in Patagonia and also their nearby communities.