WWF Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Atlantic Forest


Paraguay is geographically divided by the Paraguay River into two large natural regions, the Western (Chaco) Region and the Eastern Region and both have different forest types. The largest forest area is located in the Western Region, while in the Eastern Region is made up of one of the most threatened eco-regions: the Atlantic Forest of Alto Parana (BAAPA).

In the BAAPA are the largest mammals on the continent and over 300 bird species, some in danger of extinction. The BAAPA flora contains a vast variety of trees and plants that contribute to the botanical biodiversity.  It also contains the Guarani Aquifer, one of the most important reserves of freshwater in the world that spans more than 1,200,000 km2, from the center-east region of Brazil, through Paraguay, northwestern Argentina and east-central Uruguay. Originally, the BAAPA in Paraguay had an area of ??9 million hectares of forests, but in the last decades it has been reduced to an approximated area of ??1,709,545.72 ha.

Importance of BAAPA

The conservation of the Atlantic Forest of Alto Parana in Paraguay is of great importance not only at the local level, but also at the global level because it is fundamental to maintain the ecosystem functions that it provides; the preservation of air, soil and water quality and an invaluable source of energetic material, as well as the life quality of people who inhabit it. Its existence is crucial to the quality and quantity of drinking and irrigation water, and helps to increase the useful life of the large dams, Itaipú and Yacyretá, and to preserve the Guarani Aquifer. The BAAPA constitutes a large carbon reservoir and has therefore great significance for climate change mitigation; this forest ecosystem preserves millions of tons of carbon that are stored in trees and vegetation associated with these.

Main threats

The major threats to the BAAPA is the clearing of forests (deforestation) for agriculture practices and the unsustainable use of forests, such as illegal logging for timber and fuelwood harvesting (charcoal and firewood). These activities also lead to unhealthy, unproductive degraded forests which leaves them vulnerable to fire and extreme weather events, such as droughts and storms. Both deforestation and degradation impacts the livelihoods of rural and indigenous communities, threatens a wide range of valuable plant and animal species, and the quality of soil and water.

Palm Trees

Indigenous people and small producers

WWF is currently associated and working with five pilot areas within the Atlantic Forest, especially with municipalities, environmental NGOs and indigenous communities. These pilot projects aim to determine socio-economic alternatives to deforestation and degradation with the prior, free and informed consent of the communities. The activities will protect and improve the livelihood of the people and of those who work and directly influence the six pilot regions. It is also an opportunity to give indigenous people a place in the REDD+ process. The 6 pilots will allow the identification of the project’s achievements and best practices for future development in Paraguay and internationally.

Women windowSmiling kidkidsIndigenous kid

The five communities are:

 1. Aché Group of Puerto Barra (indigenous community)

 2. Municipality of Ñacunday (rural community)

 3. Municipality of Santa Rosa (rural community)

 4. Municipality of Naranjal (rural community)

 5. Municipality of San Cristobal (rural community)

Rural and indigenous communities have great interest in collaborating with this project. They have the historical knowledge about the development of the area, so their participation is crucial for the implementation of pilot initiatives. There are also NGOs developing activities at the pilot sites so their participation is important to achieve short and long term goals (sustainability).

Current and future situation of BAAPA

Even though the Zero Deforestation Law, also known as the Moratorium on Forest Conversion, has been extended until 2018, if there are no financial incentives, conservation and restoration of forests beyond the forest reserves established by law will not attract interest from key actors. It is therefore very important to establish the Payment for Environmental Services.

Law 3,001/06, “Assessment and Payment for Environmental Services” that accompanies and supports the Zero Deforestation Law is a tool that allows to compensate those owners with forests (those whose reserves are larger than indicated by the Forestry Law 422/73, i.e., over 25%) by those owners who have their environmental liabilities (which have a debt to these reserves), using referential market prices and in free payment arrangement between owners, per hectares and per year.

It is an economic tool aimed to give added value to the forest, in this case, for the environmental services they provide: quality and quantity of surface and ground water, more appropriate microclimate to the production, biodiversity, among others. The enforcement authority is the SEAM.


To date work is still being done on the terms of the law regulation and payment protocols, but a great breakthrough came in at the end of 2013 when the first certificates were issued to the producers.

BAAPA regulatory framework

Paraguay has several environmental laws that serve as a basis for the protection, management and restoration of BAAPA, respectively:

Article N° 422/73: Forest.
Article N° 294/93: Environmental impact assessment.
Article N° 716/96: Punishment of crimes against the environment.
Article N° 3.001/06: Valuation and compensation of environmental services.
Article N° 3.663/08: Ban on transformation activities and conversion of areas with forest cover in the Eastern Region. 
Law 4.241/11: Restoration of protective forests water channels.

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