Threatened parrots as flagships for southern Yungas forests, Bolivia and Argentina
Argentinean biologist, Luis Rivera, is President of the Foundation for Conservation and the Study of Biodiversity (CEBio Foundation), an NGO dedicated to informing effective conservation decision making in the southern Yungas region of Argentina and Bolivia.
The southern Yungas, where Luis grew up, stretches down from the eastern foothills of the Andes, and is characterised by large areas of subtropical montane forest. Supporting more than 80 endemic and a number of highly threatened species, the forests here are of great conservation importance. In Argentina, the southern Yungas represents only 2% of the land but has 50% of the total bird species.
However, the southern Yungas is being degraded at an alarming rate, even inside protected areas. The problem is especially severe in Bolivia where the forest has a high human density and burning and deforestation are common. Luis explains, “Local people are indifferent to the threats to the forest and wild species because they don’t have enough information about the importance of the forest to their daily lives or of the damaging impact of many human activities.”
“Before our work people were indifferent or predisposed negatively about parrots. Now they recognise the species as an important component of their natural heritage. Some local people have even started ecological economic activities, becoming bird watching guides for ecotourists.“
Luis and his team are expanding their work to include a second parrot species, the vulnerable Military Macaw (Ara militaris). Occurring at lower altitudes than the Alder Amazon, its piedmont forest habitat is highly threatened by conversion to agriculture. The species is little studied but with help from local people trained in roost monitoring techniques, Luis aims to gather information essential to ensuring its effective conservation.
By combining conservation of both species, Luis is finding a way to not only conserve two of South America’s most threatened parrots, but also gaining protection for the entire elevation gradient of the southern Yungas, and so the biodiversity that it contains.
2020 CONTINUATION FUNDING
Project: Building a community-based forest landscape resilient to climate change in the Southern Yungas, Argentina
Nature-Based Solution Award: £100,000 over 2 years
The Southern Yungas are montane forests of the Andes: a biodiversity hotspot and Endemic Bird Area with an array of trees, birds and amphibians found nowhere else on earth. The forest and its wildlife also provide ecosystem services to the surrounding communities but the matrix is strained by unsustainable timber extraction and cattle farming. This mountainous ecosystem is particularly sensitive to habitat loss, with species left nowhere to go but up. Priority areas and conservation zones have been identified but no efforts have been made to inspire local participation in these strategies – until now.
With Continuation Funding, Luis and his team will go beyond legal designations and work with land owners to implement action on-the-ground. Focusing on the Tartagal and Santa Barbara mountain ranges, they will apply a participatory restoration plan to plant 10,000 trees and restore 200 ha. Luis will train hundreds of people in sustainable forest management, protecting over 600 ha that will reduce carbon emissions, improve carbon retention and protect the home of threatened species. Finally, he will implement a participatory programme to monitor biodiversity and raise awareness of the importance of these delicate ecosystems, to demonstrate how an integrated approach could be scaled widely to the provincial and national level.