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Restoring the biocultural heritage of the Santa Catalina Wetland, Matanza-Riachuelo Basin (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Status: Ongoing

Type of intervention

Active Restoration

  • Pre-intervention land use

    Degraded aquatic habitats

  • Start intervention


  • Post-intervention land cover


About this site

Since 2015, FARN, in collaboration with the organisation Pilmayqueñ and the Museum of Agrobotany, History and Nature (MAgNa) of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the Lomas de Zamora National University (UNLZ), contributes to preserving the biocultural heritage of the Santa Catalina wetland in the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin (CMR) in the south suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires, Argentina. This initiative includes biota surveys, periodic maintenance for managing exotic species and planting native species. It has also led to the first archaeological explorations in the area. The restoration work strengthens and expands the local university nursery and accompanies educational activities at MAgNA. Every year, hundreds of primary and secondary school students from different CMR localities, particularly in situations of socioenvironmental vulnerability, visit Santa Catalina. They engage in interpretative outings through the natural area and are assigned a practical task for the classroom on the biocultural values of Santa Catalina. In addition, MAgNA´s space serves as a meeting point for discussions, dialogues and interviews related to the state of Santa Catalina and its biocultural heritage. This initiative builds on over 20 years of FARN´s work experience in the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin, one of the most polluted basins in the world. In 2008, the National Supreme Court of Justice (CSJN) ordered its restoration within the class action framework, which allowed a shift from neglect to developing a public policy for the basin. FARN was appointed by the CSJN as a member of a chartered body to do the civic monitoring of this challenging, long-term process. Ensuring clean, thriving wetlands in the CMR is essential for realising the judicial mandate and safeguarding the human right to a healthy environment. ACHIEVEMENTS SINCE 2015: →4,5 ha under ecological restoration. →Planting of over 1000 exemplars of 50 native species. →Viewpoints, interpretative trails and signalling. →Surveys of flora and fauna and archaeological excavations; →New species were discovered as a result of fauna surveys: 6 species new to science (1 species of Miridae, 1 of genus and species of Miridae, 1 genus and species of Rhyparocromidae, 1 previously unknown apterous female of a Miridae, 1 previously unknown male of a Miridae and 1 species of the genus Cotinusa); 4 species new to Buenos Aires Province (Edessa graziae, Hyalochloria brasiliana, Repipta ayelenae and Corimelaena tibialis) and 1 species exotic to Argentina (Plantae-Asteraceae). →Educational activities average 800 students yearly. →Building, facilities and showcasing improvements in the Museum of Agrobotany, History and Nature. →Restoration and related biocultural activities directly benefit 2000 students from schools and universities, the general public visiting Santa Catalina and participating in educational visits annually, and the university community (around 30,000 students). →Indirectly, around 800,000 inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhoods of the Lomas de Zamora, Esteban Echeverría, Almirante Brown, and La Matanza municipalities also benefit from our work. This initiative is part of an integral approach to participatory land use planning promoted by FARN in the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin, a Biocultural Corridor that safeguards and connects natural and cultural heritage for enhanced environmental benefits and human well-being. Biocultural corridors have been recognised as OECMs (other effective area-based conservation measures) by ministerial resolution in 2022. KEY DATA ABOUT SANTA CATALINA: ➤It is located in the Lomas de Zamora district, in the south suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires, surrounded by an urban matrix with more than 800,000 inhabitants. ➤It is the easternmost relict of the lowlands of the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin. ➤It is the largest green area in the district, representing 7% of its surface area. ➤It covers 670 hectares. ➤It includes a 45-hectare lagoon. ➤Diverse environments are represented in Santa Catalina, ranging from native and planted forests to grasslands, marshes, and riparian vegetation. ➤Two hundred five bird species were recorded, representing 55% of the Buenos Aires province bird species and 20% nationally. ➤Over 800 species of plants, 400 species of fungi and algae, and at least 1800 species of arthropods. It is an important biocultural hub in Greater Buenos Aires. ➤It hosts educational and research institutions, such as the Santa Catalina Phytotechnic Institute building, the Provincial Agricultural Education Centre, the Museum of Agrobotany, History and Nature, and the Lomas de Zamora National University campus. ➤It holds more than ten historic buildings from the 19th century, which witness the area's history. Among them is the first agronomic-veterinary institute in the country, which was established between 1881 and 1883. ➤It hosts agricultural parcels and a model goat milking parlour. ➤Declared Mycological Reserve "Doctor Carlos Spegazzini” in 1983, preserving and exhibiting hundreds of species of fungi. ➤Declared a National Historic Site (1961) and a Provincial Historic Site (1992). ➤In 2011, after an extensive campaign led by social and environmental organisations, Santa Catalina was declared a Provincial Natural Reserve by Law N° 14.294, becoming the first protected area in the south suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires. ➤In 2016, it was also declared as a Municipal Historic Heritage. ➤Despite the attributes mentioned above, due to postponed effective implementation, the Santa Catalina Provincial Natural Reserve faces various challenges and impacts (grassland fires, infrastructure development, land use changes, paving, etc.). ➤It awaits a management plan and the appointment of material and human resources necessary for effective conservation. Mixed ownership of the land demands proper coordination work for environmental protection. A judicial protective order refrains a private actor from advancing with earthmoving and construction works in the area. MORE INFORMATION: Santa Catalina: A wetland for biodiversity and the well-being of the inhabitants of the Riachuelo. Audiovisual: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEEVy0IjuGg&t=14s (Spanish) / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gN7A2o0Arw (English subtitles). Microsite Matanza-Riachuelo Basin Biocultural Corridor: https://farn.org.ar/corredor-biocultural-riachuelo/ Matanza-Riachuelo Basin Biocultural Corridor Festival. Over 300 participants in 2022. Press release: https://farn.org.ar/festival-de-corredores-bioculturales-en-el-humedal-de-santa-catalina-en-la-cuenca-matanza-riachuelo/ Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=266nzPD8Z4c Citizen science platform ¿Qué pasa Riachuelo? Riachuelo, what´s up?: https://quepasariachuelo.farn.org.ar/ Project on the Biodiversity of the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin in iNaturalist: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/biodiversidad-de-la-cuenca-matanza-riachuelo

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