Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Half a million hectares of Gran Chaco forest cleared in 2013

20 February, 2014 - 09:09 -- John Burton
Aerial view of rectangular areas of cleared forest.

I have just returned from a visit to the Chaco of Paraguay with naturalist and TV presenter Nick Baker and Iain Barr from University of East Anglia.

As a follow up, Guyra Paraguay, World Land Trust’s (WLT) conservation partner in Paraguay, sent me the following horrifying set of statistics, which are reproduced exactly as sent:

There was a total deforestation of 502,308 hectares in the Gran Chaco Region of South America during 2013, equivalent to a rate of 1,376 hectares per day.

This rate of deforestation was 7 per cent lower than in 2012 but was still higher than in 2010 and 2011. The loss of woodland in the whole of the Chaco during 2013 took place on average at the rate of 57.33 hectares per hour or one hectare per minute.

Of the total deforestation, Paraguay accounted for the largest amount with 236,869 hectares, followed by Argentina with 222,475 hectares, and Bolivia with 42,963 hectares.

The monthly loss of forest cover throughout 2013 displayed maximum and monthly variation typically found in the Gran Chaco, with an observed maximum rate in October of 64,949 hectares, equivalent to 2,095 hectares per day, and a minimum rate in May of 13,714 hectares, equivalent to 442 hectares per day.

The minimum rates may possibly be distorted by the greater presence of cloud cover on the satellite imagery during those months.

In Paraguay, the largest part of the Chaco affected, deforestation was concentrated in the Department of Alto Paraguay and especially in the Department of Boquerón, which registered the highest rates of deforestation in the whole of the Gran Chaco for the second successive year. In Argentina deforestation was concentrated mainly in the Provinces of Santiago del Estero, Salta and Chaco. Polygons of deforestation in specific zones of Bolivia were concentrated in the Department of Santa Cruz.

World Land Trust is doing everything possible to help support Guyra’s efforts to protect the country’s remaining forest. We have funded the purchase of several reserves in Paraguay, but land prices are escalating, and have risen by about 30 times since 2007. We need all the funds we can raise. So if you can help, now is the time. In Paraguay £1million will buy 10,000 acres, an area that would cost about £50 million if it was in England.

Land in Paraguay is extraordinarily diverse and scientists believe that there are as yet undescribed species to be found there. A donation to WLT’s Action Fund will help save the forest of Paraguay - before it is too late.


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Is this deforestation being driven by particular political or economic forces? Is the land destined for soya production, or is it just speculation to drive up land prices?

If soya is the driving force, do we know which markets are being lined up for exports?

If it's the US and the EU, and it's going into animal feed and / or bulking agents for food processing, can we try to flag up the whole process and highlight our responsibilities as consumers? That way we can put pressure on our suppliers - especially our supermarkets, who will jump if we twitch.

Knowledge is power.

Submitted by john on

Unfortunately I think it is a combination of the factors that Dominic B mentions, and more worryingly it is actually the Asian economies that are driving a lot of the land speculation in Africa and South America. Indirectly it is soya -- the areas of Uruguay, Argentina, Parguay and Brazil which were formerly dominated by cattle pastures are increasingly converting to soya production, and the cattle are being pushed to the margins in the Chaco. And land speculation is rife.

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