Misiones is in northeast Argentina, bordering Paraguay and Brazil. Nearly 1.3 million people live there, and it is home to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — the Iguazú Falls. It also has the Paranaense Forest, one of the world’s largest remaining pristine forests.
The Paranaense Forest is classified as a Biodiversity Hotspot. It has 52 percent of Argentina’s biodiversity, with more than 150 species of mammals, including jaguars; 564 species of birds; 260 species of fish; 116 species of reptiles; 68 species of amphibians; and thousands of plants and fungi species.
Research has shown that pristine forests have incredible significance for climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity preservation, watershed management, and indigenous cultures and livelihoods. Yet between 2000–2013, seven percent of pristine forests were destroyed. The Paranaense Forest faces serious threats from agricultural expansion. In the past 120 years, 95 percent of it has been lost. Out of the remaining five percent still standing, most is in Misiones Province. The loss of forest has had a devastating impact on flora and fauna. From more than 1,000 species and subspecies of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, 20 percent are threatened or almost endangered. Neither the fish nor the plants in Argentina have been completely categorized and there is a need for more data on the regional fauna to understand the full impact. Despite laws to protect specific endangered species which face destruction and alteration of their habitats, like orchids — one of the most well-represented families in the province — the forest also requires more protection.
The Paranaense Forest covers the southern end of the Atlantic Forest biome and is the beginning of a transition to the savannahs and grasslands of the Pampean province. These borderline forests, known as ecotones, have many tropical species with valuable genetics, because they have evolved to resist more extreme climatic conditions. The Paranaense Forest is an important refuge for many endangered species.
The forest also provides food and livelihoods to more than 100 communities. In Misiones, more than 4,000 hectares belong to indigenous peoples and local communities.
Its tourism potential is immense; more than 25 million people pass through this region every year — more than visit Buenos Aires. This presents an enormous opportunity for ecotourism.
The province is improving its sustainable forest timber management. Local timber companies have adopted practices to allow cutting cycles of about 30 years, managing natural regeneration, improving soil, and planting native species of high commercial value. Agroforestry in native forests enriches the growth and productivity of fruit trees and the forest provides natural control of pests and a friendlier environment for native fruit trees.
In an effort to raise awareness about this forest as an essential jaguar habitat, Misiones recently announced the first ‘Provincial Jaguar Day’ in 2018. As a result of efforts to establish a ‘Green Corridor’ in the province, the jaguar population has doubled from 50 to 100 in the last 12 years.
In 2018, the Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development in Argentina, with support of the UN-REDD National Programme, established a National Action Plan for Forests and Climate Change. This plan will develop policies for sustainable forest management, reduce the vulnerability of communities that depend on them, reduce deforestation and promote forest restoration.
The Action Plan was is seen as the main instrument to implement Argentina’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 Paris Agreement on forestry and land use.
Misiones has prioritized measures such as land-use planning and sustainable management of forests, building on local experience.
The province of Misiones also recently endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, which outlines ten ambitious global targets to protect and restore forests. The province hopes it will eliminate negative environmental factors, improve the sustainability and quality of native forest products, halt deforestation from agricultural production; and contribute to environmental and social responsibility. The people of the region envisage producing goods that don’t encourage deforestation and create a new era of growing for sustainable and regenerative development.