Located in the central northeast part of the province of Corrientes of Argentina, with an area of 1,300,000 hectares, the Iberá is one of the most important natural regions of the Southern Cone. Simply put, it is a drainage basin that is continuously filled with rainwater which, due to the low runoff associated with a virtually flat terrain, has more than half of its surface covered by water. This makes Iberá one of the most important freshwater wetlands in South America. However, the region is much more than only “esteros” or “wetlands”. Iberá also encompasses dry grasslands, savannahs, and forests. This integrated combination of wet and dry ecosystems harbors a great diversity of flora and fauna as well as spectacular landscapes.
Click to enlarge
Iberá is also a Provincial Natural Reserve, declared as such in 1983. The Reserve’s boundaries are set by the borders of the drainage basin, and therefore contain the entire basin within its limits. This coincidence between hydrological and administrative borders aids in the protection of Iberá offering great conservation potential. Apart from beautiful landscapes and diverse flora and fauna, the Iberá region also harbors a rich culture kept by its people. Interesting history and traditions have arisen around Iberá’s landscape and bring together two worlds: terrestrial and aquatic.
Presently, the Iberá region has great potential to develop a strong local economy based on the sustainable use of natural resources, primarily in the form of ecotourism. Thanks to the work of reserve authorities, many species of flora and fauna have been able to spectacularly recover after the last few decades of non-ecologically sound land use. Nonetheless, Iberá still requires creative actions to secure long-term ecological integrity. These actions need to reverse the extreme environmental degradation that occurred during the 20th century. During this time of careless land use, a variety of species emblematic to Iberá disappeared, such as the glaucous macaw (globally extinct), the jaguar, the giant river otter, the collared peccary, the tapir, and the pampas deer. Actions must also address the political-environmental pressures to which Iberá is subject because, unfortunately, they threaten its long-term survival and integrity.
The climate of Iberá is subtropical. The temperatures for the month of July (the coldest month of the year) vary between 15 and 16 degrees Celsius. In the summer, the average temperature for the month of January is 26.5 degrees Celsius. The average precipitation per year is 1500 mm. The warmer months (November to March) have higher rainfalls averaging 600-700 mm. The atmospheric pressure is fairly uniform throughout the region, ranging from 1002 to 1005 hPa. The winter months tend to have the higher pressures and the summer months the lower ones. The variation of solar radiation during the year is very small. On average the solar radiation oscillates between 220 calories/cm2/day in the Southern part of Iberá and 290 calories/cm2/day in the Northern part during the winter. In the summer, these values change to 500 and 650 calories/cm2/day, respectively.
The Iberá Water Basin was molded by the Paraná River approximately 1.8 million years ago during the Pliocene-Pleistocene era. During this time, the river crossed the Province of Corrientes Northeast to Southwest, from Ituzaingo to Esquina. In these remote times, the Paraná flowed through what is today known as the depression of Iberá, leaving space for the Carambola/Corriente river. In its trajectory, a barrier of basalt rock impeded the Paraná from flowing west; but when the river finally broke through the barrier, its waters spilled over into the Yabebiry, a tribuitary of the Paraguay River. This established the river’s current flow in the areas of Ituzaingó and Confluencia. In passing over the basalt rock barrier, water rapids in Apipé, Santa María, 25 de Mayo and Jupiter were formed, and the barrier caused the river to split creating many islands such as Apipé Grande (Castellanos, 1975).