A protected area is a tool for the long-term conservation of the biological and cultural diversity of a territory. It is composed of geographically defined and delimited spaces, which must be integrated with the surrounding territories to guarantee biological connectivity (for example, through buffer zones or ecological corridors). It should also integrate local communities through participatory mechanisms, both at the time of creation and during implementation.
There are various categories of protected area management, ranging from strict categories, which only allow research, control and surveillance, to less strict categories, which allow the sustainable use of natural resources. There are different governance schemes for the areas: they can be administered by governments at different levels (municipal, provincial, national), by private landowners, indigenous or local peoples, universities, or they can be jointly managed by some of these administrators.
The creation of a protected area offers significant benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services. A protected area can preserve key portions of watersheds (such as aquifer catchment and recharge sites), contributing to the care of water for consumption and productive use in neighboring areas; it can protect key links in food chains, collaborating in the biological control of pests and/or naturally regulating the emergence of zoonotic diseases; and it allows the custody of landscapes and cultural-natural sites that serve for the enjoyment, recreation and spiritual connection of visitors and local inhabitants. The development of sustainable tourism, scientific, recreational and environmental education activities in these areas provides opportunities for local and regional socio-economic development.
At Natura International we are dedicated to promoting the creation of new protected areas in areas where globally important biodiversity is threatened. We work mainly in Argentina, but also support highly catalytic projects in the Amazon rainforests and Andean cloud forests when the opportunity arises.
In all our projects, we work together with local communities and municipal, provincial and national governments, articulating with local NGOs and the scientific sector to achieve these conservation objectives. We are committed to expanding the network of protected areas, which represent an extraordinary opportunity for communities and conservation.
Since 2014 we have been working on the creation of a protected area in the Sierras de Famatina, an area of great biological value and beauty in La Rioja, located in northwestern Argentina.
Its high mountains and deep valleys contain an important diversity of plants and animals. Its snow-covered peaks rise to over 5,000 meters, with montane forests and the vegetation at its base creating a beautiful landscape that deserves to be protected.
The conservation of this area has been threatened on several occasions by large international mining companies seeking to extract the gold deposits in these Sierras, which damages the main resource of this place: water.
We are working together with the local communities to conserve the watershed and the biodiversity of the area, and to strengthen the local economy by promoting nature tourism as a sustainable alternative. The creation of a protected area that provides a legal shield to these mountains will put an end to the fight against open-pit mining. This will allow us to close a cycle and begin working on a new stage of conservation.
Natura International works with the provincial government, local communities and other relevant stakeholders to promote the participatory design of protected areas in natural and cultural landscapes of conservation priority. These areas will preserve a variety of ecosystems, ranging from the rich forests of the Chaco in the lowlands to the High Andes at over 5,000 meters.
These areas contain many species of conservation concern, including endangered species such as the Chacoan Peccary, the Jaguar, the Taruca and the Andean Cat. The territories contain relevant cultural heritage and are also important for human needs and well-being, as they host the upper reaches of watersheds that provide drinking water to downstream communities or protect indigenous lands.
We facilitate and support alliances and constructive dialogues with governments, indigenous peoples, local inhabitants, universities and municipalities, with the aim of achieving the declaration of protected areas through legitimate participatory processes.
This project to create a National Park in northeastern Córdoba, Argentina, seeks to protect the Mar Chiquita Lagoon and the Río Dulce wetlands.
This future park will cover thousands of hectares of land and water. Mar Chiquita is the largest saltwater lake in South America and, together with the Río Dulce wetlands, is of global importance for migratory shorebirds. This wetland is home to more than 1 percent of the world’s population of several bird species, between 5 and 50 percent of the population of three flamingo species, 66 percent of all migratory and shorebird species recorded for Argentina, 36 percent of the country’s total avifauna (380 bird species recorded), and 85 percent of the province’s birds.
We are working together with the organization Aves Argentinas, the Government of Córdoba, the municipal governments and the local communities, for the realization of this project to create a national park in one of the most important wetlands in South America.
In the Uspallata Valley, we are working on a proposal to create the first National Park in the province of Mendoza.
The objective is to guarantee the conservation of the headwaters of the Mendoza River basin, the main source of water for human consumption and for production in the north of the province.
This project represents an opportunity to conserve water, biodiversity and the history of the town, and promote local development through sustainable tourism.
Located 120 km away from Mendoza city, Uspallata is a mountain oasis, which contains a representative sample of the Monte, Puna and Altos Andes ecoregions and its ecotones, characterized by a high amount of endemism (species that only live there).
In Uspallata we can find the headwaters of the Mendoza River, and a system made up of more than 80 glaciers, watercourses and high-altitude wetlands (“vegas”), make up a large reservoir of pure water.
Estancia Uspallata is an important area in terms of the cultural and natural wealth of the country. It is an area of public and national interest: cradle of the history of the independence of Argentina, and of Latin America.
The area is the habitat of one of the five most endangered felines in the world, the Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita).
There is also a great wealth of cultural values related to the original settlers, the Inca occupation, the San Martinian epos and the heyday of the trans-Andean railway.
The National Park, in the sectors of the reserve of greater environmental value, will promote local development through tourism of nature, and history of the country.
Natura International’s task is focused on providing key technical-scientific information for the protected area proposal, with actions at various levels:
- Working with local communities to identify and unify common goals, expectations and benefits from the creation of a national park;
- Conducting biodiversity surveys to document species diversity, endemism, and potential threats to the areas, and to expand the data and bibliographic information that justify the creation of a national park;
- Development of institutional alliances and agreements with other organizations to achieve joint and collaborative actions;
- Articulation with key partners, such as the National Parks Administration and Aves Argentinas to advance in the baseline report of the future protected area; and
- Conducting workshops for communities on alternative tourism and nature tourism, which can enhance their lifestyle and accompany the creation of a national park.
In Ecuador, we carried out a series of projects that created new protected areas in three environments: the Ecuadorian Amazon, cloud forests and dry forests. In 2020, we co-financed the work that led to the creation of the Santiago Municipal Protected Area of more than 13,000 hectares, declared in March 2021. The reserve preserves extremely rich adjacent cloud forests and is a source of water for 15,000 people.
In 2021, we financially supported efforts to create the Santa Elena regional reserve, which could reach 250,000 hectares, including large areas of intact Tumbesian dry forests, recognized for their wide range of endemic species. We also financed the purchase of more than 76 hectares of cloud forest in Ecuador’s Nirmala Valley, which supports one of the last remaining groves of giant Podocarpus trees, giving this land the distinction of having the highest carbon mass of any site in South America.