Deforestration in Latin America and the Paraguayan Chaco

Deforestation in Latin America´s tropical forests is a persistent threat that has continued inexorably over the years [1] [2] [3]. The pressure exerted by the agricultural frontier has severely affected its integrity, transforming the last forest remnants into isolated patches and endangering their continuity and biodiversity [4]. Between 1990 and 2005, Latin America lost over 7% of its forest cover, resulting in 69 Mha of deforested area. The latest studies conducted on the global level have identified Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay as the countries presenting the highest rates of forest loss on the continent [2]. Even though deforestation strategies such as monitoring programs and environmental policies have been implemented in order to halt the destruction of the forest, deforestation remains a major ongoing threat [5].
The Paraguayan Chaco spreads over the western part of the country and occupies 60% of it’s territory. The area is characterized by a mosaic of vegetation types composed of woodlands and dry forest (xerophilous to subxerophilous forests), combined with riparian vegetation, savannas and grasslands. It is also one of the last wilderness areas of the tropics. This remoteness still allows for the presence of indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation.
Driven by foreign immigration, the Paraguayan Chaco has grown in recent years into an important pole of economic development of Paraguay. The Paraguayan Chaco has steadily gained relevance in international agricultural markets. Cattle ranching activities have increased in the area, becoming one of the country’s economic backbones. Rising international meat prices have generated a higher demand for pasture cultivation. Artificial pastures have continuously replaced natural vegetation, increasing the fragmentation of the forest in the Paraguayan Chaco [6]. The evolution of this development occurs at expenses of the natural resources. The fragmentation of natural ecosystems in the Paraguayan Chaco has severely diminished the wildlife habitat in the region. Species such as the jaguar (panther onca) (less than 300 species remain in the area), the chaco-pekari (catagonus wagneri), and the maned wolf (chrysocyon brachyurus) are currently close to the extinction, without proper management regimes to ensure the preservation of the remaining population [6].

Objectives of Geo-ForPy

The overall goal of the project “Geo-ForPy” is to gain a profound understanding of the forest cover structure and thus support the biodiversity conservation in the Paraguayan Chaco. To reach this goal, the project contributes with the following points:

  • An improved forest cover mapping for the Paraguayan Chaco based on high resolution data is created. This information will be used to identify lands (public and private) where sustainable forest management practices could be implemented.

  • The level of fragmentation of the forest of the region, as well as the connectivity between forest patches and biological corridors is studied based on landscape metrics. This information will be applied to recognize priority areas for conservation, analyze the forest dynamics in protected areas, in indigenous reserves, and adjacent areas.

  • The implementation of forest policies and laws in the Paraguayan Chaco is analyzed based on historical and current multi-temporal Landsat imagery. The study will provide essential information to comprehend the impact of past and current forest policies. The outcomes become relevant to derive tailored recommendations considering the land-ownership category.

  • The exchange of knowledge, based on training courses and workshops oriented towards Paraguayan environmental agencies (governmental and non-governmental), research institutions and interested stakeholders, forms another important objective of the Geo-ForPy project.

    • For further information, please contact:

      Jennifer Kriese
      German Aerospace Center (DLR),
      Earth Observation Center (EOC)
      German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)
      82234 Wessling

      [1] FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. Main report. FAO Forestry Paper 163. Forestry Paper, 163, 350 pp. doi:ISBN 978-92-5-106654-6

      [2] WWF (World Wildlife Fund). 2013. Paraguay extends Zero Deforestation Law to 2018.

      [3] Hansen, M. C., P. V. Potapov., R. Moore., M. Hancher., S. A. Turubanova., A. Tyukavina., and D. Thau, et al. 2013. High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science (New York, N.Y.) 342: 850–53. doi:10.1126/science.1244693.

      [4] Joseph, S., M. S. R. Murthy and A. P. Thomas. 2011. The Progress on Remote Sensing Technology in Identifying Tropical Forest Degradation: A Synthesis of the Present Knowledge and Future Perspectives. Environmental Earth Sciences 64: 731–41. doi:10.1007/s12665-010-0893-8

      [5] Da Ponte, E., Fleckenstein, M., Leinenkugel, P., Parker, A., Oppelt, N., Kuenzer, C. 2015. Tropical forest cover dynamics for Latin America using Earth observation data: a reviewing covering the continental, regional, and local scale. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 36(12), 3196–3242. doi:10.1080/01431161.2015.1058539

      [6] Mereles, M. F. and O. Rodas. 2014. Assessment of Rates of Deforestation Classes in the Paraguayan Chaco (Great South American Chaco) with Comments on the Vulnerability of Forests Fragments to Climate Change. Climatic Change 127: 55–71. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1256-3.