Wetlands are areas in which water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water. In Argentina, wetlands cover over six million hectares of land, representing 21.5% of the national territory.
Article 1 of the Convention on Wetlands states that “wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.” Hence, as defined by the Convention, wetlands include a wide variety of inland habitats such as marshes, peatlands, floodplains, rivers and lakes, and coastal areas such as saltmarshes, mangroves, intertidal mudflats and seagrass beds, and also coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than six metres at low tide, as well as human- made wetlands such as dams, reservoirs, rice paddies and wastewater treatment ponds and lagoons.
Wetlands are among the most productive environments in the world and are characterised by their extensive biodiversity. They can also generate important social and economic benefits, including food, water and construction materials.
Human life depends on the maintenance of its natural ecosystems and wetlands provide important benefits, including:
ground water replacement
protection against storms
retention and exportation of nutrients and sediments
climate change mitigation
and biodiversity reservoirs
They also provide numerous valuable products for society such as fruit, fish, crustacea, wild animals, resins, wood for construction, reeds for roofing, animal foraging and natural medicines.
They are shelters for flora and fauna, such as aquatic birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Diverse vegetable communities also feature in wetlands, creating wonderfully diverse and unique sceneries.
Wetlands absorb and store high quantities of carbon. By preserving them, we obtain great benefits in terms of mitigation and climate change adaptation.
Wetlands filter and purify the water passing through them, fulfilling a key role in supporting local communities.
Most wetlands are the base of food production, including cattle, fisheries and aquaculture.
Wetlands are commonly known to be engines for local economies, where access to freshwater creates development opportunities, for productive, recreational and tourism industries.
Wetlands protect coasts and act as flood buffers, reducing the impact of tidal surges. They retain the water after intense rains, acting as a sponge, and then gradually release that water back to the river. Flood risks increase when wetlands lose their capacity to store rainwater.