The Southern Andean Yungas ecoregion of Bolivia and Argentina covers 23,600 square miles (61,100 square kilometres). It lies along the eastern slopes of the Andes at an altitude of between 800 and 3,000 metres above sea level.
The Yungas urgently needs protection. The forest is home to a wealth of threatened species, but it is at serious risk from the spread of agriculture, illegal logging and hunting.
Find out how WLT is helping conserve an area of Yungas forest...
The project aims to create El Pantanoso Reserve in the northern Argentine Yungas, covering around 10,900 acres (4,400 hectares), in partnership with Fundación Biodiversidad-Argentina (FBA). When funds are raised and the property is secure, WLT will support a ranger for three years through the Keepers of the Wild programme.
FBA is planning a conservation programme both to ensure income for the long term protection of the property and also to engage the local community. The programme will encourage small scale enterprise and job creation in research, ecotourism and eco volunteering.
FBA also proposes to form a partnership with Calilegua National Park to secure ranger patrols in addition to WLT’s support for a Keeper of the Wild.
Other projects in Argentina
The cost of acquiring the property and delivering a three year conservation programme (which includes funds to support a Keeper of the Wild), is in the region of £800,000. The landowner has agreed to payments phased over three years.
WLT is inviting supporters to help save the project by donating to Buy an Acre.
Biodiversity studies in El Pantanoso have identified more than 120 species of tree, 140 species of butterfly, 350 species of bird and 120 species of mammal.
The reserve is home to two mammals classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List: Lowland Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari). The reserve also shelters two Near Threatened mammals: Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Margay (Leopardus wiedii).
Also present in the reserve are: Lesser Anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu).
The rare and little known Black Solitary Eagle (Buteogallus solitaries), classified as Near Threatened, has been recorded in the reserve.
Also present are: Collared Forest Falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus), Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota), Red-faced Guan (Penelope dabbenei) and Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata).
Threats to El Pantanoso
Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in the Yungas – particularly for the production of soya beans and sugarcane. In Argentina, more than 90 per cent of the Yungas foothills have been cleared for agriculture and all land outside the protected area network is generally subject to intense logging. Although timber extraction doesn’t necessarily involve wholesale forest clearance, it does significantly alter forest composition. It also speeds up the process of habitat fragmentation not least because logging trails allow easy access for hunters and illegal loggers.
The Yungas region is situated in an oil basin, and active oil exploration is leading to road construction. This inevitably encourages unregulated access to previously inaccessible areas of forest.
The current owner of El Pantanoso has managed the land for conservation and there has been no logging or incursion for the past 35 years. But, if the property was sold on the open market, there is a real risk that the forest would rapidly become fragmented.
El Pantanoso forms part of the largest area of contiguous habitat for Jaguar (Panthera onca) in Argentina. It is also an important ecological corridor for Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and other threatened species including tapir and two species of peccary.
The property is strategically important because it forms a corridor between Calilegua National Park on its southern border and Estancia Urundel, a large tract of contiguous forest on its northern border.
El Pantanoso incorporates several ecosystems at varying altitudes across an area of more than 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres). The area is not yet fully surveyed, and new discoveries are likely.
The vegetation comprises lowland and mountain forests. The ancient evergreen forests of the Yungas are thought to be forest remnants dating from the quaternary glaciation.
Valleys on the reserve dictate the flow of the Morado and Pantanoso rivers.