Buenos Aires, Argentina -- Wetlands International in Argentina has become a member of the Round Table on Responsible Soy to help addressing the loss of wetlands and their values in the guidelines for responsible soy. Wetland areas are severely threatened by the expansion of soy cultivation due to water extraction, pollution and reclamation, with considerable costs for society.
Wetlands International has successfully worked before on the development of criteria for other commodities as well as on soy specifically; mainly via addressing biofuel policies of UN-conventions or the European Union specifically on sustainability.
Wetlands and soy in Argentina
The high value of soybean in the international markets and the economic benefits that this crop brings to Argentina are causing the expansion of the agricultural frontier. The most significant direct effects of the expansion of soybean cultivation are loss and degradation of natural ecosystems, including wetlands.
The distribution of soybean cultivation areas in Argentina largely overlaps with wetland distribution, occupying the central northeast of the country. In some of these areas soy expansion has resulted in wetland loss and degradation, which has not only caused the direct loss of biodiversity, but also the loss of key services that these ecosystems provide. Aerial application of agrochemicals associated with soy cultivation in key wetland areas results in water pollution with consequences for human health.
Protecting wetlands is not only important for biodiversity conservation, but also for maintaining the key services that these ecosystems provide to people. Therefore, guidelines for responsible soy production need to consider wetland conservation.
Our Soy and Wetlands Programme has three main components:
- Establish the knowledgebase on impacts of soybean cultivation expansion on wetland ecosystems, water and local livelihoods
- Work with the soy trade-chain key stakeholders at local, regional and international level
- Support the implementation of the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) Standard in pilot areas in Argentina
Wetlands International in Argentina (Fundación Humedales) is now a member of the RTRS aiming to promote the consideration of wetland issues in the interpretation and implementation of the RTRS standard. Wetlands International will also contribute its vast experience regarding wetlands and water resources to the RTRS.
Wetlands occupy about 6% of the Earth’s land surface and more than 21% of the Argentinean territory. Wetlands are defined as “areas where 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.
Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments, providing tremendous economic benefits; for example clean water supply, flood regulation, fisheries (over two thirds of the world’s fish harvest is linked to the health of coastal and inland wetland areas), agriculture (through the maintenance of water tables and nutrient retention in floodplains), wildlife resources, transport and recreation and tourism opportunities.
Wetland ecosystems are part of our natural wealth. At a worldwide scale they provide us with services worth trillions of US dollars every year, making a vital contribution to human health and well-being1.