07 Dec Wasteland Turns to Wonderland: Discover Buenos Aires’ Green Side

Bird's eye view of Rio de la Plata.

Bird’s eye view of Rio de la Plata.

It’s encouraging when governments deem areas of land as national parks and ecological reserves. Clearly, there’s credence in the science behind their establishment. This holds especially true for ecological reserves, where human impacts on ecology are (or were, rather) becoming tangible. Developmental sprawl intrudes the habitats of species endemic to specific areas, threatening their existence. Furthermore, the impacts of expansion on ecology are unpredictable, as an impact on one species may affect another without obviously appearing so, and recognized only after irreparable damage is done. The preventative aspect of ecological reserves remains particularly appealing.

While it’s easy to discuss ecology metaphorically, Buenos Aires, Argentina took action. The city’s government established the Buenos Aires Ecologica Reserva, also known as Costanera Sur. The area had previously been a promenade, with coffee shops and bars lining the banks of the Rio de la Plata in the 20s and 30s. However, river contamination drove consumers away, leading to the deterioration and eventual destruction of these establishments. As the river grew it began to overtake some of the promenade, and trash dumping was normal. This incited the proposal to reclaim the land. Eventually these plans were abandoned and the site was left alone.

In the absence of human interaction, a massively diverse explosion of fauna began. In 1986, the diversity of species and their ecological interactions were recognized and began being protected as a natural park area. In 1989, the site was declared an ecological reserve.

Costanera Sur supports a variety of species that interact in surprising ways. For example, the Cortaderales (“the sea of grass”) are home to foxtails, which provide shelter for ground animals and food and perches for birds. The Alder and Willow forests have unique climates based upon varying levels of soil moisture, resulting in

diverse speciation among the different forests. Particularly interesting are the coastal scrubs, a feature distinct to the Rio de la Plata. While all shrubs tend to look similar, species such as Acacia, Phyllanthus, Murta, and Carupf populate the coast and are native to the river. These species specifically need government protection in order to survive the threat of expansion.

While debate over the effects of environmental change will inevitably continue, examples such as Costanera Sur continue to support the argument of ecological conservation. Global warming may have overarching effects that are difficult to recognize, analyze, and prove (apparently), but these implications must be separated from conservation biology. In a field fraught with contention and dissention, the science behind ecological reserves remains sound.

But why don’t you learn that for yourself?

Michael Radke



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