Upper Parana Atlantic Forests
The landscape is the most biodiverse area of Paraguay, namely the Upper Parana Atlantic Forest (UPAF). The UPAF is one of the 15 terrestrial ecoregions that belongs to the Atlantic Forest Complex that span parts of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Composed of semi-deciduous subtropical forest, the UPAF in Paraguay presents one of the most important ecosystems for the conservation of biological diversity on a global scale, due to its “remarkable biodiversity richness, high plant and animal endemism”.
It is also home to the Upper Parana & Jejuí River basins; situated in the Eastern part of Paraguay (Departments of Canendiyu, Alto Parana and Caaguazu and 42 municipalities). Its main tributaries drain into the Parana River.
As it is also situated on the most fertile land of the country, the focus area of expanded agri-business development in Paraguay which generates a large portion of its export earnings. Soy, cattle ranching and forestry are the main commodities in the region. Subsistence farming & forest products support numerous local and 143 indigenous communities.
The population amounts to over 450,000 people which double during the high season. There is a mixture of different cultures sharing the same landscape (Paraguayan, indigenous communities, and settlers of Brazilian descent) and explains the diverse forms of productive activity, customs and languages (Spanish, Guaraní and Portuguese).
Land tenure in this region is characterized by (1) large agri-business farms that for the majority have secure titles and (2) locals with small-scale agriculture where the majority (60%) are in an insecure state of tenancy.
Due to these land use trends, the landscape alternates between 19 protected areas & private forest reserves (20% forest cover), subsistence farming, soybean crops and cattle ranching.
While forest fragments has experienced diminished biodiversity, it still represents a large fraction of the fauna of the AF in Paraguay, including 403 species of birds, threatened mammalian species such as the harpies, Bush Dog, Azara´s Agouti , Pumas, Tapir and near threatened iconic species like the Jaguar.
The landscape forest core areas and remnants (517.000 ha) still play an important role as direct providers of ecosystem services (provision of food, timber, bioenergy, medicine, climate regulation and water filtration, etc.), where the provision of water by the existing forest remnants generates a special microclimate through which water can be transpired into the earth. This important ecosystem service generates energy for the largest cities in the Southern Cone, through hydroelectric power.
The environment clearly benefits the region by providing clean water, food, cultural and natural heritage, evidenced by the designation of two Biosphere Reserves within the landscape. However, forest fragments are threatened as deforestation is still occurring despite the Zero Deforestation Law being in effect (222.215 ha. lost between 2000-2016). As forest remnants lose more areas to deforestation and degradation, they become more fragmented and lose their ecological integrity and therefore its function to generate ecosystem services and a viable habitat for biodiversity.
Restoring towards a resilient landscape presents us a good opportunity so that the livelihoods of people and the economic system depending on this degraded ecosystem can be sustained.