After traveling 250km from its birthplace in the Andes mountains, the river Maipo arrives at the Pacific Ocean, where it forms an estuary that gives rise to the Río Maipo Wetland, on the border of the boroughs of Santo Domingo and San Antonio, in the Valparaíso region.
The wetland has an immense biological value due mainly to the great quantity and diversity of marine and freshwater birds that inhabit it, 94% of which are endemic or native to Chile. The Union of Ornithologists of Chile estimated that there are 132 bird species in this area, which represent 27% of the national bird fauna. In the summer, in fact, the abundance of birds exceeds 18,000 individual birds – a real delight for bird watchers. It is understandable, therefore, that the international organization Bird Life has declared it an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).
In addition, like all marine-coastal wetlands, it fulfills a number of ecological functions that are essential to the maintenance of environmental balance, such as regulation of the water cycle and climate, control of droughts and floods such as those caused by surges and increases in sea level. An example of this took place in 2010, when the Río Maipo Wetland played an important role in the flood caused by that year’s earthquake.
Conscious of the biological importance of the wetland and the need to protect it, the Municipality of Santo Domingo created the Río Maipo Wetland Nature Park in 2002, which covers approximately 40 hectares of the wetland. Then, in 2014, we joined the wetland conservation initiative and signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Municipality, to work together in the institutional strengthening of the Nature Park – jointly with the local community – and take charge of the sustainable infrastructure design. Together we have established a plan of action and sustainable management to enhance recreation activities, tourism specialized in bird-watching, research and scientific education within the park.
Although the Park has been an important first step towards protecting a part of the Río Maipo Wetland, it is still not enough. Therefore, together with the Municipality of Santo Domingo, we have proposed to raise the level of protection of the wetland by applying for it to be a Ramsar site.