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Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given species, ecosystem, biome, or planet.

Terrestrial biodiversity tends to be highest at low latitudes near the equator,which seems to be the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity.

Marine biodiversity tends to be highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest and in mid-latitudinal band in all oceans.

Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time but will be likely to slow in the future.

Biodiversity-Blue_Linckia_Starfish

The loss of biodiversity generates negative consequences.


Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions.One estimate is that <1%-3% of the species that have existed on Earth are extant.

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity.


Evolution and History.


The Phanerozoic eon (the last 540 million years) marked a rapid growth in biodiversity via the Cambrian explosion—a period during which the majority of multicellular phyla first appeared.

The next 400 million years included repeated, massive biodiversity losses classified as mass extinction events.

In the Carboniferous, rainforest collapse led to a great loss of plant and animal life. The Permian–Triassic extinction event, 251 million years ago, was the worst; vertebrate recovery took 30 million years.

The most recent, the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago and has often attracted more attention than others because it resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction and an accompanying loss of genetic diversity.

Named the Holocene extinction, the reduction is caused primarily by human impacts, particularly habitat destruction. Conversely, biodiversity impacts human health in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.

The United Nations designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.
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With an area of 2,791,810 square kilometres, Argentina is the second largest country in South America. Due to its extension in latitude --from 22 to 56 º SL-- its territory encompasses a variety of climates, landscapes, flora and fauna. Argentina is included in the group of the 25 most biodiverse countries in the world in terms of sheer numbers of species present.

The several types of native forests to be found in that country are strongly linked to such biodiversity levels. Nevertheless, they have been disappearing at an alarming rate. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country had more than 100 million hectares of forests, which at present are reduced to less than 20 million hectares, half of them suffering an accelerated process of degradation.

Those supposedly responsible for their conservation have reacted with complete indifference and in some cases even promoting such destruction.The causes of the present situation are historical.

Evolutionary Diversification.


Coinciding with the conquest of the country's interior by the Buenos Aires centralized government that took place during the second half of the 19th century in the name of modernization, forests in different regions of the country entered a period of decline which has continued and worsened in the last decades.
The loss of biodiversity generates negative consequences for the environmental system. Click to Tweet
Logging by foreign and national companies, infrastructure projects and more recently the establishment of pulpwood and carbon-sink monoculture tree plantations have been some of the major causes of forest loss.
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The British forestry company La Forestal.

Cases of deforestation have been reported all over the country. During the 19th century, in the northern province of Santiago del Estero a severe process of deforestation occured, which devastated the forests to the detriment of a local population formed by people of Quichua and Spanish descent.

Responsible for it were powerful European logging companies --stimulated by the government-- which once the resource was exhausted left the country leaving a landscape of devastation and poverty behind.  



A similar case is that of the Province of Santa Fé, where forest cover decreased in nearly 4.6 million hectares over the last 80 years, with a deforestation rate reaching 121,500 hectares per year between 1970 and 1984.

The British forestry company La Forestal, which began to operate in the region in 1880 owning nearly one third of the Province's area to exploit "quebracho" (Schinopsis balansae) forests, was the direct responsible for this depletion.

Social unrest caused by the exploitation of nature and people and violent repression that followed constitute one of the most serious cases of environmental conflicts in Latin America. 
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San Luis Province.

In central San Luis Province, the last 200,000 hectares of "caldén" (Prosopis caldenia) forests are threatened by a project to be implemented by Orinco Argentina S.A. to produce parquet flooring and charcoal for export.

This is a unique open forest in a semiarid climate, where several tree species coexist with the dominant Prosopis caldenia, such as Geoffroea decorticans, Iodina rhombifolia, Schinus fasciculatus and Prosopis nigra. The subtropical Province of Misiones, at the border with Brazil and Paraguay, is also undergoing a process of forest loss.

At the beginning of the 20th century 90% of its area was covered by a dense subtropical forest, but nowadays there are only 1,500,000 hectares left. Instead, large areas of the province are now covered by monoculture pine tree plantations mostly aimed at pulp production.

Tierra del Fuego Province.


Last February the government of Tierra del Fuego Province, in the extreme south of the country, authorized the logging of 130,000 hectares of "lenga" (Nothofagus pumilio) native forests, with complete disregard of the opinion of civil society and academic circles. The beneficiary is the US-based company Trillium, which has already created environmental conflicts for its devastating activities in southern Chile. 
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Entre Rios Province.

Infrastructure works are also a direct cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss. The NGO Vida Silvestre has recently denounced the destruction of the riverine forests in the hydrologic system of the Uruguay River in the eastern province of Entre Ríos because of this reason.

In the northern Provinces of Jujuy and Salta, the Kolla indigenous people have been defending the "yungas" --one of the last remaining mountain forests in Argentina, that is the habitat of the endangered jaguar "yaguareté"-- against a pipeline project that would transport natural gas from eastern Salta to northern Chile's copper mines. Greenpeace Argentina has had an active participation in this conflict.

Last but not least, tree plantations with fast-growing species are posing a major threat to biodiversity in Argentina. Carbon sink plantations --together with the more traditional pulpwood and timber plantations-- are increasingly being promoted as a "solution" to climate change and could result in further forest loss.
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Rio Negro Province.

In May 2000 the company El Foyel S.A, in an area located near the Nahuel Huapí National Park, in the southern Province of Río Negro, began to log 300 hectareas of native forest to substitute them with oregon and radiata pine plantations for a carbon sink project.

Native cypress trees, as well as "ñire" (Nothofagus antartica) and "maitén" (Maytenus boaria) were cut down. The quick and strong reaction of local dwellers and the environmental NGO "Comunidad de Limay" prevented the project to continue. 

Principles and Basis of the Process of Preparation of the National Biodiversity Strategy.


A document titled "Principles and Basis of the Process of Preparation of the National Biodiversity Strategy" states: "The Government and the People of the Argentine Nation know that it is vital to maintain an environment rich in species and ecosystems. They are concerned about the loss of the values and ancient knowledge kept through the years by different cultures and communities that live in the country.

Moreover, they consider that conservation of such richness is important for the country and in the best interest for humanity". Nice words ... but there is still a huge gap between such nice wording and reality.



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The Homeland of the Tango.

Comprising almost the entire southern half of South America, Argentina is the world's eighth largest country, covering an area of 2.8 million square km. Argentina possesses some of the world's tallest mountains, expansive deserts, and impressive waterfalls, with the diversity of the land ranging from wild, remote areas in southern Patagonia to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires in the north. 
Lake and mountain scene
Buenos Aires, known as “The Paris of South America”, is a great metropolis with eleven million inhabitants and one of the largest in the world. It is also the most elegant and busy city in South America and is in some way the essence of the variety of the Argentinean.

Buenos Aires is a city that is open 24 hours a day.

Whilst of modern construction and dynamic activity, it has managed to preserve old traditions and charming corners. One is fascinated by the atmosphere, the individual personality of each of its neighbourhoods, the cordiality of its people and the wide selection of its cultural and commercial opportunities. This complex, energetic, and seductive port city, close to the splendid countryside surrounding it, is the great cosmopolitan doorway to South America.
Tango in Buenos Aires
With its wide boulevards, ornate architecture and love of statues, squares and gardens it is a delightful city for walking in and observing. From the old port to the chic boutiques of Florida with the outdoor cafes there is a sophisticated lifestyle which is famous throughout Latin America.

Buenos Aires is a city that is open 24 hours a day with some of the best restaurants and bars in the world and its own special “New World “ dynamism which has developed with the great mix of European and South American cultures all in one city.

 For all its diversity, the elusive spirit of Argentina as a country is present everywhere in Buenos Aires. The national dance, the tango, is perhaps the best expression of that spirit - practiced in dance halls, parks, open plazas, and ballrooms, it is a dance of intimate separation and common rhythm, combining both an elegant reserve and an exuberant passion. A deliciously typical Argentine dinner followed by a traditional tango show will be one of your highlights when in Buenos Aires.

A visit to one of Argentina's ranches.


A visit to one of Argentina's ranches provides you with a perfect experience of stepping back in time to a bygone era of rich traditions and being at one with nature.  Located amidst 350 hectares of beautiful and unspoilt age-old landscape for as far as the eye can see. Relax and enjoy the gentle heat of the sun on your cheeks, the warm breeze blow through your hair and take a deep breath of the pure and fresh air, this is the best that Argentina's countryside has to offer.  The ranch is self-sufficient and boasts a full organic orchard were produce is grown and then used in the restaurant. Even the bread is made in traditional mud ovens at the ranches own bakery each day.  

For relaxation the ranch offers a swimming pool set in its tranquil surroundings, a coffee house, where once the farm workers used to meet up after a hard days work and enjoy some traditional beverages.  There is also a stage where some exciting and colourful entertainment will be shown a museum which houses a fine collection of antiques, carriages and farming machinery, and there is even a Souvenir Shop where you can purchase traditional produce like honey and cheeses to traditional handicrafts like the colourful ponchos.  
Asado with achuras (offal)
Asado is cuts of meat, usually beef, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire. Asado is quite popular in the Pampa region of South America, and it is the traditional dish of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and the Southern States of Brazil. Asado is also a dish in the Philippines and it differs from the Latin American version because instead of grilling, the beef is cooked in a sweet tomato-based stew that is usually accompanied by potatoes, carrots and other vegetables.  In Brazil, asado is called churrasco, and although the method of cooking is similar, it is seasoned with Brazilian spices. Charcoal is predominantly used instead of embers of wood, and Brazilians tend to cook the meat on skewers. In some places, the meat is seasoned with salt and a bit of sugar.

An Argentine asado typically has a sequence of meats presented by the asador (the cooker). 

First are the chorizosmorcillas, chinchulines (chitterlings), mollejasprovoleta, a grilled cheese dish. Sometimes these are served on a coal-heated brasero. Then costillas or asado de tira (ribs) are served. Next comes vacío (flank steak), matambre and possibly chicken and chivito (baby goat). Dishes such as the Uruguayan Pamplona, pork and Patagonian lamb are becoming more frequent, particularly in restaurants. 

An asado also includes bread, a simple mixed salad of, for instance, lettuce, tomato and onions, or it could be accompanied with verdurajo (grilled vegetables), a mixture made of potatoes, corn, onion and eggplant cooked on the parrilla and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Beer, wine, soda and other beverages are common. 
Read also: The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.

An asado can be made al asador or a la parrilla. In the first case a fire is made on the ground or in a fire pit and surrounded by metal crosses (asadores) that hold the entire carcass of an animal splayed open to receive the heat from the fire. In the second case, a fire is made and after the coals have formed, a grill (parrilla) is placed over with the meat to be cooked. 
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Another traditional form to mainly roast the meat, used in the Argentine and Chilean Patagonias, is with the whole animal (specially lamb and pork) in a wood stick nailed in the ground and exposed to the heat of live coals, called asado al palo.  

The meat for an asado is not marinated, the only preparation being the application of salt before and/or during the cooking period. Also, the heat and distance from the coals are controlled to provide a slow cooking; it usually takes around 2 hours to cook an asado. Further, grease from the meat is not encouraged to fall on the coals and create smoke which would adversely flavor the meat, indeed in some asados the area directly under the meat is kept clear of coals.

The asado is usually placed in a tray to be immediately served, but it can also be placed on a brasero right on the table to keep the meat warm. Chimichurri, a sauce of tomato, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, lemon, oil and vinegar, or salsa criolla, a sauce of tomato and onion in vinegar, are common accompaniments to an asado, where they are traditionally used on the offal, but not the steaks. In Chile it is usually accompanied with pebre, a local condiment made from pureed herbs, garlic and hot peppers.

Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park in the south west of Santa Cruz province, Argentina. It is one of the most important tourist attractions in the Argentine Patagonia. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating. Periodically the glacier advances over the L-shaped "Lago Argentino" ("Argentine Lake") forming a natural dam which separates the two halves of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore. With no escape route, the water-level on the Brazo Rico side of the lake can rise by up to 30 meters above the level of the main lake. The enormous pressure produced by this mass of waters finally breaks the ice barrier holding it back, in a spectacular rupture event. This dam/rupture cycle is not regular and it naturally recurs at any frequency between once a year to less than once a decade. 




The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km wide, with an average height of 60 meters above the surface of the water, with a total ice depth of 170 meters. It advances at a speed of up to 2 m per day (around 700 m per year), although it loses mass at approximately the same rate, meaning that aside from small variations, its terminus has not advanced or receded in the past 90 years. At its deepest part, the glacier has a depth of approximately 700 m. The glacier first ruptured in 1917, taking with it an ancient forest of arrayán (Luma apiculata) trees. The last rupture occurred in March 2006, and previously in 2004, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1977, 1975, 1972, 1970, 1966, 1963, 1960, 1956, 1953, 1952, 1947, 1940, 1934 and 1917. It ruptures, on average, about every four to five years.

The Perito Moreno glacier, located 78 km from El Calafate, was named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile.


Argentina was born as an open land to immigrants who came from all over the planet.Click to Tweet

Images Photo Gallery.




The ruins of Quilmes can be reached from Cafayate (Salta) or from Tafi del Valle (Tucumán).

This location is just stunning, unique and majestic.

The ruins of Quilmes, as they are known, belonged to the Calchaquí natives who settled on the hillsides and on the mountain range called Calchaquí, from which the tribes got their name: Quilmes and Calchaquí.
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The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.

About 5,000 people resided the area starting about 850 AD.  For almost 100 years prior to the arrival on the Spaniards, about 1530, the Quilmes fiercely fought the Incas who came south from Peru. 

Location.

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The ruins are located at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,500 + feet) elevation. 



The ruins were rediscovered about 1890.  Work was started to restore the ruins in 1978.

My tour guide told me that only about 10 % of the ruins have been restored. 
Read also: Colony of Magellanic Penguins in Peninsula Valdes.
Satellite pictures of both the general area of the ruins and the restored areas are shown below.

Restored area of Ruinas de los Quilmes.

Only about 10% of the ruins have been restored.  This view is courtesy of Bing Maps.
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Conclusion.

I did not know anything about the Quilmes prior to my visit to San Miguel de Tucuman.  I think this was the most interesting part of the visit.  RIQ is just not on the same scale of Machu Picchu (home of the ruler of the Incas). 
The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.Click to Tweet



What I did learn today was a better appreciation of how large the Inca Kingdom really was, the will the the Quilmes to maintain their freedom from both the Incas and Spaniards, and how in the end they were hauled away as slaves.  It is a great story of the struggles of one of the many indian tribes in South American to maintain their independence for over 800 years.
Images Gallery.
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