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Candidate Sites for Important Bird Areas in Argentina Threatened by Afforestation

Adrián S. Di Giacomo
Coordinator, Important Bird Areas
Aves Argentinas / AOP

Santiago Krapovickas
Conservation Director
Aves Argentinas/ AOP

The forestry boom subsidized by the state has resulted in the loss of populations of threatened birds in the “Campos” ecoregion in the northeast of Argentina. Potential Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are being lost before their official declaration by BirdLife International. As a consequence of the transformation of its best habitats, the Argentine Mesapotamian Grasslands Endemic Bird Area (EBA) is in danger. The IBA concept could be very useful to design a Conservation Action Plan for the Campos, based on the methodology and experience of BirdLife International.

The “Campos” ecoregion, which is located in the northeast of the Province of Corrientes and the south of Misiones in the Argentine Mesopotamia, is a grassland – dominated biome. It can be considered as an ecotone between the Interior Atlantic Forest and the savanna of the Chaco to the west and the Pampas grasslands to the south. The natural limits of the area are the Paraná, Uruguay and Aguapey rivers. In this rolling landscape, the matrix of grasses comprises patches of subtropical rainforest, corridors of riverine forest, and wetlands (“esteros” and “malezales”). It is in this area of Argentina that the largest number of grassland bird species is found. More than ten species are threatened on a global scale, for example, the Ochre-breasted Pipit, Anthus nattereri, the Saffron-cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus, four species of Seedeaters (Sporophila sp.) and the Strange-tailed Tyrant, Alectrurus risora.

In a recent survey carried out by Aves Argentinas / AOP, as part of the Project “Pampas Argentinas: Important Bird Areas in the grasslands” it was confirmed that some populations of threatened bird species had now disappeared as a direct result of the severe environmental transformation. Surveys carried out three years ago had recorded populations of these birds over a good number of sites throughout the region. However, during the recent survey, it was noted that both humid and tall grasslands had been replaced by extensive plantations of exotic trees such as pines and eucalyptus. For some species of threatened birds such as the Saffron-cowled Blackbird (Xanthopsar flavus) and the Black-and-white Monjita (Heteroxolmis dominicana) the situation is so serious that the protection of sites with sustainable populations is an urgent need.

Forestry activity in the area started to increase on approval of the National Law 25.080 for "The Promotion of Forest Plantations" which triggered off the replacement of cattle ranches by monocultures of exotic trees. This law contemplated an Environmental Impact Assessment, especially as it relates to the presence of threatened species, but in view of the present situation it is clear that the importance of the natural grasslands as a unique habitat for the threatened species of the area has been ignored. As a result of this law there has been a 500% increase in forest plantations between 1995 and 2000, and the situation is likely to get worse since subsidies for new plantations will continue to be granted for another nine years. This not only implies a reduction in the size of habitat for the grassland bird species but also an increase in the use of pesticides and in the drainage of wetlands in preparation for forest plantation, both of which also affect bird populations.

Despite this somewhat discouraging outlook, there are some positive symptoms. The provincial governments of Corrientes and Misiones have made some progress towards preparing Land Use Plans, in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interested in conservation will be able to participate. Cooperation possibilities among conservationists and Academia are also interesting. Last year Aves Argentinas, with the support of Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife in the Netherlands), organized the First Workshop for the conservation of the biodiversity of the Pampas in which over 100 scientists participated.

In this moment, BirdLife International has an important opportunity to take part in the design of alternatives to conserve the Campos biodiversity, through the partners in the region. The information we have suggests:

There are still well–conserved tracks of native grassland, with potentially viable populations of the threatened species that inhabit the Campos;

There is governmental interest in starting the design of Land Use Plans;

Aves Argentinas / AOP is already working in the IBAs inventory for the grasslands, with a capable team and quality information;

Cooperation with the Government, NGOs and farmers seems possible;

The BirdLife network is represented in the countries sharing the Campos biome (Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil), making international cooperation possible.

Our first year working with the national IBAs inventory in Argentina was kindly supported by Vogelbescherming Nederland. In case we could obtain the financial support needed to continue, we want to perform activities in order to influence in land planning and protected areas creation in the Campos. Among those activities there are the following: to complete and edit the grassland IBAs inventory; to write a draft action plan for prioritary IBAs in the Campos, and to spread our conclusions and recommendations to all the people involved in conservation. Despite we sent funding proposals to different sources, we are still not sure we could finance the second year of the program.

For additional information send reply to: Adrian Di Giacomo adriandg[at]aorpla.org.ar

Adrián S. Di Giacomo
Programa "Areas Importantes para la Conservación de las Aves"
Departamento de Conservación
Aves Argentinas / Asociación Ornitológica del Plata
25 de mayo 749, 2° piso "6"
C1002ABO Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel. y fax +54 11 4312 8958/1015/2284
E-mail: adriandg[at]aorpla.org.ar
aves[at]mail.retina.ar
WWW:
www.avesargentinas.org.ar
Aves Argentinas/AOP es representante oficial de BirdLife International en Argentina. Aves Argentinas/AOP is BirdLife International full partner.


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall