So far this year, more than 3,700 fire outbreaks have been found on islands in the upper Paraná Delta under the jurisdiction of Entre Ríos. It is the most in the last nine years. The uncontrolled management of fire and endings as productive practices are devastating the wetland.
The widespread fires in the Paraná Delta along the entire riverbank in front of the province of Santa Fe and part of that of the north of Buenos Aires will generate considerable damage to the flora, fauna and soil of the wetland, in addition to the river itself. Several Conicet scientists listed the damages: loss of seed banks, death of young animals, release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with its consequent increase in the greenhouse effect, desertification of the wetland that adds to its "pampeanization" by the permanent endorsements to do cattle ranching and agriculture, contamination of the river by the ashes. And the list continues. The researchers described an incomplete range of adverse effects and insisted on the need to modify the productive exploitation scheme of the wetland, apply the current laws at once and design a comprehensive strategic plan so as not to have to regret recurring episodes such as this year that They warn that it is not yet controlled.
So far this year, more than 3,700 fire outbreaks have been found on islands in the upper Delta of the Paraná River under the jurisdiction of the province of Entre Ríos. It is the highest amount in the last nine years, since the accidents of 2008 and 2011. The smoke columns reached Rosario and other cities in Santa Fe, in addition to the Buenos Aires cities of San Nicolás and San Pedro.
Alba Imhof, professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences of the UNL (Litoral) and coordinator of the Environment and Society Extension program, recalls that there is a history of these fire practices to renew pastures. "Particularly in 2008, when almost 17% of the entire surface of the Delta was burned, from Rosario to the Campana area.", exemplified.
“The vegetation dies in the place because it has no chance. The animals move, but in reality, they lose their eggs, nests, caves, they even lose the possibility that they can feed themselves, that's why they flee”, He says.
Burns and embankments to make the wetland something else
Patricia Kandus, a biologist at the National University of San Martín (Unsam), puts the 2008 burns in context, whose practices were accompanied by a marked proliferation of endemic ventures (the embankments denounced in Rosario by groups such as El Paraná no se Toca) . "Endings or polders are areas delimited by embankments that prevent the free entry of water by floodwaters or tides, thus preventing a field located in a wetland from being naturally flooded. This type of intervention expanded the "pampeanization" process that had already been taking place in the region. That is, the effort to try to develop productive activities with the mainland modes as well in the Paraná islands. Today, about 13% of the area of the region is endowed”.
The Unsam biologist maintains that even if the fire goes out, the burned persists. "Of these foci, 82.5% are concentrated in the province of Entre Ríos, much of it on the islands of the Victoria Islands Multiple Use Reserve (municipal) (more than 60% of the total foci). The remaining 11.4% and 6.1% occurred in Buenos Aires and Santa Fe, respectively.”, He maintained in his latest report, recently published.
“This is a problem that crosses jurisdictional borders, both on privately owned land and on public land leased to private parties.”, Insists the researcher.
The lost seeds
Alejandro Giraudo, professor of Conservation Biology at the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences (UNL) and Researcher at Conicet, points out that although the burns may be aimed, as farmers argue, “cleaning or weeding the islands and burning the grasslands "in a rational way," have several important negative effects”.
The severity of the damage, explains Giraudo, depends on the conditions of the wetland that are not taken into account. "As there is a very big drought, the outbreaks reach high temperatures that can affect seed banks of the plants in the ground and cause the green plants that take refuge under these grasslands to burn as well. Being one of the few resources that cattle have in winter”, He revealed. That is, even a shot back if the end is the one declared by the producers.
The use (or abuse) of the soil
Ernesto Massa, an agronomist at the Paraná Agricultural Experiment Station (EEA), of the Agricultural Technology Institute (Inta), pointed out that land use, from a livestock point of view, has changed in recent years. Many breeding herds came to the island. In part, others explain, due to the advance of the agricultural frontier due to the expansion of soybean crops, as a more profitable production.
“The wetlands are very productive, not only for the use of livestock forage, but also have high daily growth rates. This year it rained little and there was good growth of forage, while in the river there is a historical downspout. These conditions made the delta fires uncontrollable”, Specified Massa.
The ancestral fire, today out of control
The controlled burning of grasslands in the fields is a traditional practice, but in recent years it has become a huge environmental problem.
“Under controlled conditions, under regional planning and with strict consideration of environmental conditions, fire management can contribute to promoting a variety of responses from vegetation and even biodiversity, with some potentially beneficial effects on livestock practices, such as regrowth of forage species. However, burning in a context of drought and extraordinary downstream of the Paraná, with multiple simultaneous foci throughout the region without planning or control, implies a risk of devastation of the ecosystems, exceeding any level of resilience that native species may present.”Warned biologist Kandus.
Fire management must be comprehensive. It has to be in tune with the objectives of land management, respond to strategic planning, taking into account factors such as harmful effects, risks and costs of environmental destruction.
The biologist Giraudo emphasizes that “this constitutes an environmental problem”. And develops: "These burns are taking place in times of great drought, with little rainfall and there is a lot of dry matter. In addition to burning biomass, soil microorganisms and larger animals, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere“, Which generates, again, damage to the environment, people, flora and fauna.
Human intention, not nature: a desert
Fires also start from natural causes. Researchers agree - like several national and Santa Fe officials - that today they are the majority consequence of intentional actions that seek to obtain a better yield from pastures.
“These fires so large, so prolonged for so long, cause desertification, mainly when they affect the roots of plants that are underground. This means that they leave traces that are indelible in natural environments, and at the same time, consequences for human health such as those seen in Rosario, in the quality of the air due to the smoke that is released and the ashes that accumulate in the river”Warned the professor of Humanities and Sciences Imhof.
Nothing ended, the risk persists
The Paraná Delta is a macro-system of wetlands of great importance for the conservation of biodiversity and the regulation of floods. Massa assured that the fire in the Delta can remain and even more severe outbreaks can be produced due to the current environmental conditions. "In the lagoons, there is adapted vegetation that is now dry, large cushions of organic matter accumulation of different degrees of decomposition are generated, and in that area fires or fires can have or reach more severe temperatures”, Specified the agronomist Massa.
- Source material: Universidad Nacional del Litoral