What today it is known as the "Misiones Forest" (Selva Misionera) is actually a portion of one of the most important ecosystems in our continent regarding biodiversity. Specifically, it is the Parana's Forest, humid subtropical forest with a rich diversity of species, although it is not exactly the amazonian forest.
The Parana's Forest used to cover the south of Brazil, the
Republic of Paraguay, and in Argentina, the whole province of Misiones, north of Corrientes and the transition area with the Region of Chaco, being the last one the most devastated due to civilization.
In the South Cone, there is only a 10% of this forest remaining in the territories above mentioned, but some countries have made a better job than others regarding conservation of the ecosystem :
- Brazil = 5% of the total area
- Paraguay = between 13% and 20% of the total area
- Argentina = still have 45% of the Parana's Forest, but diminishing from a total of 3,000,000 ha. of forest,
but only 500,00 (15%) are protected.
The value of the Forest - Biodiversity and Extinction :
The forest is important in three ways : the landscape value, the cultural value, and above all, the genetic value : it is estimated that the province of Misiones owns almost half of the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibious species of
Until 1998, our country had 976 registered species of birds, being ranked 16th in the world (Colombia's ranked 1st, with 1695 species). From them, 41 species were endangered (ranked 15th). However, the Ornithological Association of Plata has announced that today there are around 80 species.
From those 976 species in Argentina, more than
a half (56%) are in the Parana's Forest: 548 species and subspecies.
From the fish species known in Argentina (410), 54% live in the Misiones rivers : 222 species. Although their threat is not related directly to the deforestation, it has to do with the policy of devastation of natural water currents way through dams, construction of canals, lack of control on fishing (overfishing), the introduction of exotic species, and the contamination by substances thrown principally from the paper industry.
Besides, the forest holds 49 species of amphibious, 75 species of reptiles, and an undeterminated number of invertebrates.
Regarding mammals, our country has about 320 registered species. It is ranked 12th in importance in the world (Mexico is #1, with 450 species). From these 320 species, a great number live in the forest of the province : 116 species. And from these, some are very emblematic, as the primates, the big cats, and the big herbivorous.
Only in Misiones can be found the Jaguar (Panthera Onca), the brazilian merganser (Mergus Octosetaceus), the harpy eagle (Harpia Harpyja), the giant otter (Pteronura Brasiliensis), the tiger cat (Felis Tigrina), the margay (Leopardus Weidii), the black howler monkey (Alouatta Caraya), the macuco (Tinamus Solitarius), the broad-snouted
caiman (Caiman Latirostris), the south american river otter (Lontra Longicaudis), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga Trydactyla), the collared anteater (Tamandua Tetradactyla), the rusty margined Guan (Penelope Superciliaris), the black-fronted piping Guan (Aburria Jacutinga), different kinds of parrots, the toco toucan (Ramphastos Toco), the austral pygmy owl (Glaudicium Nanum), the black-throated trogon (Trogon Rufus), the yacutoro (Pyroderus Sulcatus), the golden-crowned warbler (Basileuterus Culicivorus), the blue-naped chlorophonia (Chlorophonia Cyanea), the antshrike (Thamnofilus Caerulescens), the pheasant cuckoo (Dromococcyx Phasianellus), the vinaceus parrot (Amazona Vinacea), the dusky legged Guan (Penelope Dabbenei), and many others, and about 30 more species that are in the waiting list to enter in the endangered category.
Misiones Flora - Data :
The diversity of flora species is maybe more unknown and incredible. There are 28,000 different types of epiphytes in the world rainforests, from which 15,000 belong to Central and South America.The epiphytes (bromeliads, orchids, cactus, lichens, ferns, mosses) are plants that grow and develop on the trees, from little seeds transported by air, by animals, or by insects. These seeds get into the tree leaves or trunks.
The rainforest main feature is the multiplicity of layers. The first layer contains the emergents, giant trees that grow to height of 250 ft or more. These trees cut through the top of the forest canopy reaching toward the sunlight . The roots of these trees are very shallow because of the lack of nutrients in the soil. Since tropical rainforest soil is nutrient poor, the trees establish large root systems which fan out rather than dig deep into the soil. These buttressed roots help add support and balance to fortify the tree.
The canopy layer of the forest contains tree standing 60 to 150 ft tall. Their branches form a canopy, or umbrella, that shades the forest floor. The trees in this layer grow so close together that, viewed from above, they appear to form a solid green floor of their own. These trees block most of the sun from reaching lower plants. They also stop the rain from reaching the plants below. The rain must run down the trunks of the trees or drip off the leaves. Thick, woody vines are found in the canopy. These vines, or lianas, sometimes are as big around as a person. They climb the tree in the canopy to reach for sunlight.
Below the canopy we find the understory. This level is comprised of vines, smaller trees, ferns and palms. Beneath them, are even smaller bushes and many kinds of ferns. This part of the forest also remains green all year round. A large number of plants from this level make up common house plants. Because this level receives very little direct sunlight or rainfall, they adapt easily to home conditions and are preadapted to severe conditions of shade and low humidity. Among these plants are anthurium, caladium, colocasia, philodendron and garden callas. These plants also have to adapt to poor soil with few nutrients. They have developed features that help them to survive. For example, not producing flowers help to conserve energy, and broad leaves allow the plants to take in as much light as possible. Remaining green year round helps with food production.
Effective use of water is a major problem for plants where rainfall ranges between 80 and 320 inches a year. That amount of water can cause plant rot, growth of mold and decay. To get rid of the excess water, many rainforest plants have slick, water repellant coatings on their leaves, shapes that allow rain to run off easily and spout-like "drip tips" that help drain water from the surface of the leaf.
The forest floor forms the lowest level in the forest. Very little sunlight filters through to this area. Mosses, herbs and fungi grow here. Few plants are found on the floor of the forest. The floor is covered with wet leaves and leaf litter. There is much decay on this level, which sends nutrients back into the soil.
What is the Green Corridor ?
That is the name of the Parana's Forest region that runs through the province of Misiones and which is intended to protect because of its biologic and genetic importance. Its diversity in flora and fauna makes it the natural ecosystem more important in the country.
What are the biggest threats ?
In first place, the deforestation in the forest is alarming. There is no control and are involved main companies and saw-pits, and in a lesser degree, rural people. The government control is far from the right allowance. It became useless and not even intimidating.
In second place, illegal hunting. Because of this, many species are in the brink of extinction. The black market of species involves such a lot amount of money that comes only after drug-dealing and guns dealing. The biggest pressure is found in the regions with the most of biodiversity.
In third place, the use of fertilizers, the misuse and overuse of soil due to mono-cultivation, the endemic poverty, all of these do not let margin to rurals to protect the forest.
Uncertain perspectives :
It has begun a slow movement to protect the forest. The non-guvernamental organizations (N.G.O.) are being more active and the municipalities started creating their own protected areas, and interested citizens are declaring their own lands as private reserves.
But we are stopped in the Green Corridor Law, provincial law that pretend to protect the diagonal forest that runs through Misiones giving it a status of developing sustainable area or of multiple use area.
We believe this law has not been regulated correctly. Moreover, there is no national law nor coordinated program or plan from people interested in doing something for the forest. No firm decision to stop the illegal hunting, the indiscriminated deforestation, to integrate the population to the project, and to save the indian cultures who have a good knowledge of the forest.
To save, or at least to work for this forest, last lung of the country, means the conservation of the last genetic and medicinal reservoir for the present and future illnesses. Means to avoid our children to inherit a devastated, humilliated land. Means to secure the owner's house, being animals or men: nature won't make exceptions between them when the time of justice come.
The "Green Corridor" Project, or "Sustainable area of Multiple use" Project pretends to create a biologic corridor to connect the different natural areas in the province of Misiones without missing the premises of the sustainable production. It is today one of the most advanced ideas regarding conservation of natural resources in the planet, comparable to any of the major conservation projects from the central countries.
This is evidenced by the interest shown by WWF, the North American communication media, the conservation institutions in Argentina, and the prestige the representatives of this idea received worldwide.
Legally, the project was moulded in 1999, when the
provincial law 3631 was sanctioned, although its reglamentation changed in some degree, and today there is no funds to implement the law due to national and provincial economic inestability.
Anyway, all that has been done in the province of Misiones was because of the talent, will, and above all, love of nature from a bunch of "crazy guys" (some individuals, NGO's and some public officials).
However, it is true also that the Parana's Forest in Misiones is on its way to extinction, including the protected areas. Because of this it was sanctioned the law of the Green Corridor. Because of this also, the law is not enforced.
When there is lack of political will to enforce the law, it is needed to strenghten the will and demand to protect the forest, huge source of life, enjoy, and economic choices.
It is possible, and we all are fighting for it .
Yaguaroundi Private Reserve
Juliana C. Mujica
New Orleans, LA. - USA.