Creating and Conserving Protected Areas

The Natura office in Argentina has the principal mission to establish new and strengthened protected areas in priority biodiversity areas of Argentina. Our work is currently focused on the Sierra de Famatina that would protect Andean ecosystems in La Rioja province, and the Mar Chiquita area of northern Cordoba province, one of the most important areas for waterbirds in South America.

Natura is working closely with the governments and local communities in both these areas to make these dreams a reality. We are aided in this work by the national government’s vision to expand the national protected area network by 2019, that presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Argentinian people and the global conservation community.

Sierra de Famatina

Since 2014, we have worked to create a protected area of over 200,000 acres in the Sierra de Famatina, an outstandingly beautiful area in the central Argentinian Andes. This wilderness area has high mountains and deep valleys contains significant plant and animal biodiversity. It is also very scenic, with mountains covered in snow rising over 18,000 feet elevation, and montane forest and vegetation at their base. The national government is receptive to the idea of a national park for this area, as are the local communities.

However, conservation of the area has been threatened by active plans to mine gold in the  Sierra de Famatina. We are working with the local communities to preserve the watershed and biodiversity values of the area, to demonstrate and enhance their economic potential, and to persuade politicians to establish a new Famatina National Park.

Mar Chiquita Lake and the Rio Dulce Wetlands

Natura’s office is actively working to create of a new national park in the rich, teeming marshes and lagoon of Mar Chiquita, South America’s largest salt lake, in. The proposed national park would cover two million acres of lands and waters. The lake and associated Rio Dulce wetlands are of global importance for colonial and migratory shorebirds, supporting more than 1% of the global population of a half-dozen species, and 5 to 50% of the population of the three Andean flamingo species. The remaining extensive wetlands are one of Córdoba’s last undeveloped regions. We are working with Aves Argentinas and local governments and communites so this spectacular area can soon become known as the Ansenuza National Park!

Natura works in these areas at several levels, all necessary for successful protected area establishment:

  • carrying out social work with local communities to identify and unify common goals, expectations, and benefits of national park creation;
  • conducting biodiversity surveys to document the areas’ species diversity, endemism and potential threats, and to expand datasets and bibliographic information used in reports justifying national park creation;
  • developing institutional partnerships and sign agreements with other organizations for better collaborative action;
  • working with partners, through agreements with the National Park Service and Aves Argentinas to advance the base report and the management of protected areas; and
  • carrying out workshops with local governments and communities on the different economic alternatives that can be carried out with the creation of a National Park.

Conservation Science

Wildlands research. We work to identify conservation opportunities to protect areas wildland areas, places where ecosystems are still characterized by natural processes and where native biodiversity is at its best. Our staff conducts biodiversity and watershed  inventories of these areas to bring their values into public view. The wild areas of South America constitute one of the most important reserves of biological diversity on Earth.

We have initiated a program of systematic mapping of wild lands and an assessment of their contribution to regional and global biodiversity. Other goal is to provide a rich source of information on protected wildlife areas and related biodiversity that can inform conservation initiatives at local, national and global scales.

Conservation of High Andean Flamingos and Wetlands. Natura International collaborates with the High Andean Flamingos Conservation Group (GCFA) to monitor and conserve the wetlands habitat for the three species of flamingos that inhabit the southern Andes of South America, the Chilean, Andean and James Flamingos The goal of this program is to achieve the sustainable and integrated management of high Andean wetlands and associated ecosystems import for their conservation. We hope to create a regional network of priority sites that include the full range of environments used by these species during its life cycle. Under this program, NI coordinates flamingo census in Salta province and aerial census in Mar Chiquita Lake.

Protecting the Andes of Salta Province

Natura International has an unexpected opportunity to help the government of Salta create a provincial protected area in Nevados de Castilla in northwestern Argentina. This area would protect rich cloud forests of the Argentinian jungas and extend to high puna grasslands above 14,000 feet in altitude.

The area contains many species of conservation interest, including the Isadora’s Eagle, the endemic Tucuman Mountain-finch, and endangered species such as the Taruca deer and the Andean Condor (both natural national symbols of Argentina). The area is also important for human needs, as it would protect the upper reaches of the watershed that provides drinking water for the city of Salta. The famous Quapaq Ñan, or Inca Trail, also passes through this area, giving it historic and archaeological value as well.