Sediment in the River Plate
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Sediment in the River Plate

April 3, 2006

The broad delta visible in this image is formed by the River Plate, at the confluence of the rivers Uruguay and Parana in the Southeastern portion of South America.

The River Plate, or Rio de la Plata, is the widest river in the world, stretching 220 kilometers (136 miles) where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. This broad, flat estuary separates Argentina and Uruguay and is home to the ports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, their respective capital cities.

The tan-brown patch at the bottom of the image is sediment carried by the river; it is a hazard to navigation and must be dredged periodically in order to keep the port of Buenos Aires open for shipping. A variety of land surface features are also visible in this image.

To the north, the greenish pixels show forest regions, as well as characteristic clusters of rectangular patterns of agricultural fields. In the center-left of the image, the lighter green pixels show arable regions where there is grazing and farming. It is likely that disturbance, such as the conversion of forest to agriculture, increases the amount of sediment transported into and by the river.

The River Plate is habitat for La Plata (sometimes called 'Franciscana') dolphins, a very rare species and one of the smallest cetaceans or whales in the world. This elusive and largely solitary species prefers shallow coastal waters, where they are sometimes accidentally caught and killed in shark nets.

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