Vascular plant species of the floating vegetation rafts from the Río de la Plata (Argentina)

Abstract In South American rivers, Eichhornia crassipes and other floating plants intertwine and form floating rafts commonly known as "camalotales" which are especially abundant during flooding periods. During extraordinary floods, hectares of floating mats are drifted by the Plata Basin Rivers. In the Río de la Plata several reports suggest that many animal and plant species from subtropical latitudes colonizes the area through these large rafts. These episodes are very important from the economic point of view because they cause several troubles to navigation and other activities. On the other hand, benefits to biodiversity are conspicuous, and many authors consider this process vital to the Río de la Plata wetlands and forests. However, there is scarce knowledge about Eichhornia rafts plant species composition. With the aim of creating an exhaustive list of the flora of the Eichhornia rafts, we visited the Río de la Plata coast during a massive Eichhornia rafts arrival. Thirty-two plant species were recorded in three different plant assemblages: Eichhornia rafts sensu stricto, floating reeds (canutillares) and embalsados. In front of this unexpected we emphasize the need to include this phenomenon in regional biodiversity conservation plans.