The El Chaco Biosphere Reserve covers a large area in the northern part of the boreal El Chaco system in Paraguay, with ecologically diverse dry forest ecosystems. The reserve covers a series of ecosystems ranging from forest areas, matorral, savannahs and lacustrine and riparian ecosystems.
The El Chaco Biosphere Reserve covers a large area in the northern part of the boreal El Chaco system in Paraguay, with ecologically diverse dry forest ecosystems, which are under great pressure to be converted into grazing lands.
The Biosphere Reserve has six core areas, all protected areas: the Río Negro National Park, Cerro Cabrera - Timane Nature Reserve, Médanos del Chaco National Park, Cerro Chovoreca Natural Monument, Defensores del Chaco National Park, and Teniente Agripino Enciso National Park. The buffer zone and transition area are made up of private land, military territories; land managed by the Instituto de Bienestar Rural, and territories of indigenous communities.
The Biosphere Reserve covers a series of ecosystems ranging from forest areas, matorral, savannahs and lacustrine and riparian ecosystems, both of permanent and temporary character. It contains representative ecosystems for the conservation of the regional Gran Chaco system in terms of protected habitat types, varied transition types between ecosystems, and a gradient from semi-arid to humid systems and temporary flooded areas.
El Chaco Biosphere Reserve could become an essential part of a potential large-scale transboundary biosphere reserve of the Gran Chaco region with the countries of Argentina and Bolivia.
The area of El Chaco is biophysically the most diverse of the Gran Chaco system. It combines a high biodiversity with well-conserved ecosystems and habitats of great importance that are indispensable for the establishment of biological corridors with the neighboring countries.
The Biosphere Reserve hosts a high floristic diversity with almost 5,000 different species, of which 486 are wild relatives of cultivated species. The fauna is influenced by the Amazonian and Inner Atlantic Forests, but still includes a high degree of endemism, especially in mammals but also in reptiles, birds, insects and arthropods.
Numerous threatened species find refuge in El Chaco such as the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), jaguar (Panthera onca), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus).
El Chaco has important cultural values and includes parts of the traditional territories of three ethnic groups: the Ayoreo, Guarani-Ñandeva and Ishir. The indigenous communities have had a low impact on the environment (small periodic burning, subsistence agriculture) and sustain practices of hunting and harvesting, combined with the culture of summer orchards.
The Biosphere Reserve designation helps to protect local indigenous communities’ homeland and cultural identity. The population of El Chaco, which totals some 4,700 people, also includes Creole and Mennonite groups.
The creation of the Biosphere Reserve constitutes a first effort to promote the management of the use of natural resources in the north of the Paraguayan El Chaco. The management plan of the Biosphere Reserve is in preparation.