Argentina Names Bahía de Samborombón to the Ramsar List
Argentina's 6th Wetland of International Importance is a special one for the Ramsar Bureau, as reported by Dr Montserrat Carbonell. Whilst working for the Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA) in the mid 80s, she and her colleagues started pushing for its inclusion in the Ramsar List. Pablo Canevari (now with Bonn Convention -CWS), who prepared the instrument of ratification for Argentina and the Ramsar Information Sheet for the first three sites (Laguna Blanca, Pozuelos and Pilcomayo), was at that time working for Wetlands for the Americas and trying at the same time to push for Punta Rasa to be included in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, which has very much in common with Ramsar at the technical level. His efforts through WHSRN also contributed to creating awareness about the importance of Samborombón. IUCN's Mariano Giménez Dixon (Species Survival Commission) also played an important role in getting the provincial authorities to move forward on designating this site, especially since his PhD thesis, on the Pampas Deer, was carried out there.
Bahía Samborombón (35.30 - 36.22 S, 56.45 - 57.23 W)
Situated on the right margin of the Río de La Plata estuary, this new Ramsar site includes private lands, National Army lands, Fundación Vida Silvestre Private "Campos del Tuyú Wildlife Reserve" and "Punta Rasa Biological Station" (in agreement with the Navy), and the Natural Provincial Reserves of "Rincón de Ajó" and "Bahía Samborombón".
It covers a total of 243,965 hectares (between 0m and 8m above sea level), of which 147,245 ha are land and the rest correspond to the open water to 3m average depth. It has very extensive intertidal mudfalts ("cangrejales") and creeks, tidal salt marshes, sand dunes and permanent and seasonally flooded freshwater lagoons and marshes, slow-flowing streams and grassland. The "cangrejales", or crab habitat, with very high densities of crabs, are an example of the extremely rich productivity of this area.
Except for the forests of "tala", Celtis tala, growing on higher ground (banks of "conchilla"), the rest of the vegetation is mainly herbaceous, with a rich variety of communities as a result of the diverse types of soil and water (pH, availability and regime). Dominant plant species include Cyperus spp., Scirpus spp., Spartina spp., Juncus spp., Paspallum vaginatum, Distichlis spicata, Hordeum stenostachys, Salicornia virginica, Solanum malacoxilom, Typha latifolia, Zizaniopsis bonariensis, Cortadera selloana and Eryngium pandanifolium.
The Bahía de Samborombón represents one of the last natural remnants of the "pampas" vegetation which once grew throughout central-eastern Argentina, before the Europeans introduced soft pastures for cattle grazing and started to drain the "wet pampas". Hence it is one of the two areas in the country with significant populations of the threatened Pampas Deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus celer).
Other important mammals include Coypu Myocastor coypus, which is exploited by the local inhabitants. Waterfowl, both resident and migratory, including Patagonian and Nearctic species, are very abundant. Almost 20 species of migratory shorebirds use Punta Rasa as an important stopover site in their flyway, benefiting from the high productivity of the area. There have been more than 100 fish species recorded and invertebrates are very abundant (both in numbers and species richness).
Cattle ranching is done in private lands, and fishing and hunting are practiced throughout the area. The main threats to the site are illegal hunting and fishing, drainage canals reaching to the coast (opening up the area to poachers), unrestricted and uncontrolled tourism in certain areas, and cutting of the "tala" forest.
There is some infrastructure and wardening in the area, such as interpretation centers in the FVSA "Campos de Tuyú" Wildlife Reserve and in the "Punta Rasa" Biological Station. There has been considerable amount of research done, especially on shorebirds in Punta Rasa.