The purpose of this work is to assess the impact on the Esteros del Ibera wetland ecosystem caused by the Yacyreta dam, a large hydroelectric power plant on the Parana River, Argentina, in comparison to other factors of environmental change. The project of the dam started around 1970. The power plant began operating in 1994. In 1989, the neighboring Ibera wetland ecosystem showed a substantial increase in the water level for which several different causes were conceivable, including climate change and the dam construction. We analyzed all existing hydrometeorological data and studied other changes that were observed in this ecosystem. A water balance model was used to analyze different scenarios. Increased groundwater inflow, generated since the construction of the dam, appears to be affecting the wetland more than any other factor. The study has implications for the assessment of global and regional consequences of building dams.
Keywords: Wetlands - Esteros del Ibera - Water balance - Modeling tools - Hydroelectric dam construction - Impact assessment - Sustainable development