The El Chaco Biosphere Reserve covers a large area in Paraguay's northern part of the boreal El Chaco system, with ecologically diverse dry forest ecosystems under tremendous pressure to be converted into grazing lands. The reserve has six core areas, all protected areas.
El Chaco Biosphere Reserve
The El Chaco Biosphere Reserve covers a large area in Paraguay's northern part of the boreal El Chaco system, with ecologically diverse dry forest ecosystems under tremendous pressure to be converted into grazing lands.
The Biosphere Reserve has six core areas, all protected areas:
Río Negro National Park: With a surface area of 123,789 ha (305,889 acres), it protects typical ecosystems of Pantanal and Humid Chaco. Containing partially flooded areas, it was declared a Ramsar Site in 1995 by the Wet Convention of International Importance because it was considered a habitat of migratory birds and other species, both animals and vegetation of wet areas. Wildlife includes yaguarete, wild parrots, deer from the Pantanal, lobope, and yacares.
Cerro Cabrera - Timane Nature Reserve: With an area of 125,823 ha (310,915 acres), it contains the Timane River, considered a special river because it does not end up in any watercourse or lagoon. The Cerro Cabrera is on the border with Bolivia. The vegetation here is mainly dense savanna and open forests. There are a lot of white quebrachos, samuù and palo santo. Wildlife includes wild felines, armadillos, oso hormiguero, and tapir.
Médanos del Chaco National Park: With an area of 514,233 ha (1,270.697 acres), it was initially included in the Paraguayan Wildlands Project (Global Environment Facility of the UN). The "médanos," or dunes with their unique vegetation and guanacos, are of particular interest in this national park.
Cerro Chovoreca Natural Monument: Created in 1998, with a surface of 100.953 ha (249,460 acres), its vegetation is different from the rest of the Chaco, and it can be said to be unique in the country. It contains reddish sand soil, characteristic of the Oriental Region and is very shallow. The high forest here is a very rare species, in danger of disappearance, containing the trebol (Amburana cearensis). Wildlife includes yurumí u oso hormiguero, el Kaguaré and other species of felines and armadillos.
Defensores del Chaco National Park: Paraguay's largest protected area, with 720.000 ha (1,779,158 acres). The site contains a vast plain with vegetable coverage formed by white quebracho, palo santo, samuù, low forests, thorn bushes and various cactus species. It is an excellent area for large mammals such as felines (yaguareté, puma, tirika, yaguarundí), various species of armadillos, monkeys (Ka’i mirikina y Ka’i pyhare), tagua y tapir o mboreví.
Teniente Agripino Enciso National Park was created in 1980 with 40,000 ha (98,842 acres). Its size and shape are mostly rectangular. It has the typical landscapes of Dry Chaco. Due to the lack of water, its vegetation is characterized by dense forests and thorns and is almost impenetrable. Typical trees are white quebracho, palo santo and samu'u. Wildlife includes many wild mammals such as felines, yaguarte and the three precaires (the tagua is the symbol of the area).
The buffer zone and transition area comprise private land, military territories, land managed by the Instituto de Bienestar Rural, and territories of indigenous communities.
The reserve covers a series of ecosystems ranging from forest areas, matorral, savannahs and lacustrine and riparian ecosystems, both of permanent and temporary character.
The El Chaco Biosphere Reserve contains representative ecosystems for conserving 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 temporarily flooded areas.
The 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 high biodiversity with well-conserved ecosystems and habitats of great importance that are indispensable for establishing biological corridors with the neighboring countries.
The Biosphere Reserve hosts a high floristic diversity with almost 5,000 species, of which 486 are wild relatives of cultivated species. The Amazonian and Inner Atlantic Forests influence the fauna but still include a high degree of endemism, especially in mammals, 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 (minor periodic burning, subsistence agriculture) and sustain hunting and harvesting practices, 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.