Project: Selva de Pino Paraná: Protecting threatened species
of the Atlantic Forest region in Argentina
Background | Purpose | Actions

  In Brief  

Location: San Pedro department, Misiones province, Argentina
Timeframe: April 2013-September 2014
Goal: To conserve threatened species, birds especially, in the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot.
Threats Twenty species of globally threatened or near-threatened birds share their habitat with small-holder farmers in this province. Farming and logging are inadvertently reducing the availability of large old trees required by parrots and other birds that nest in tree cavities, and bamboo stands required by threatened bamboo-specialist birds. Education and involvement of farmers in conservation can turn this around.
Actions and Results:
  • Approximately 2000 native tree seedlings will be planted by farmers on about 25 farms.
  • A random sample of 15 of the 37 families that participated in earlier tree-planting efforts will be visited and surveyed to determine tree survival rate and attitudes of farmers.
  • Two visits will be made to each of 12 rural schools for nature and conservation related educational activities.
  • Students from the local park ranger college will be hired as interns to help with field research and school visits, providing them with valuable career experience.
Cost: $10,000   (100% of cost)
Size of area
~1000 km2 (~100,000 hectares)

Endangered Vinaceous Amazon adult and nestling in their tree-cavity nest at Parque Provincial Cruce Caballero. (Photo: Juan Klavins)

In more depth...

Project Partners and Personnel

Our partner is the team of volunteers from Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná, which is coordinated by Kristina Cockle, postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University, and naturalist Alejandro Bodrati. Other team members are retired high-school science teacher and teacher trainer Emilse Mérida and farmer Abilio Rodríguez. In addition, one or two educators will be contracted to help with outreach activities in schools.


About 99 percent of the Atlantic Forest has been cleared or degraded by logging, driving major declines of many birds. In San Pedro department, Argentina, 20 species of globally threatened or near-threatened birds share their habitat with small-holder farmers. Farming and logging are reducing the availability of large old trees required by parrots and other birds that nest in tree cavities, and bamboo stands required by threatened bamboo-specialist birds. Recent interviews show that many local people overlook habitat loss and degradation as serious threats to endangered species. Most primary school students, and many of their teachers, consider that hunting is the principal or only threat to native forest wildlife. Many seem to take for granted the services provided by native forest, including firewood, construction materials, protection of their drinking water, shade, and protection from the wind.

This project is demonstrating it is possible to slow forest degradation and protect endangered bird habitat, through education and opportunities for small-holder farmers to participate in conservation. The outreach program complements ongoing scientific and natural history research by Kristina Cockle (Louisiana State University), Martjan Lammertink (CONICET), Alejandro Bodrati (Fundaci n F lix de Azara), Juan Ignacio Areta (CONICET), and Theo Varns (Yale University).

In 2003, Kristina Cockle and colleagues started field research in the province of Misiones, Argentina to determine habitat requirements and threat status of endemic Atlantic Forest birds. They quickly realized that urgent conservation action was needed to stop the decline of endangered Vinaceous Parrots. They mobilized a small group of researchers and volunteers to begin "Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná" and launched an outreach program involving local small-holder farmers as protagonists in conservation.

Role of research in Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná

Individuals involved in this ongoing effort (Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná) conduct scientific research, educate the public locally and internationally, and encourage the active and appropriate participation of local small-holder farmers in wildlife conservation. Currently, research focuses on understanding the interactions among woodpeckers, parrots and other bird species that nest in tree cavities, the natural history and ecology of bamboo-specialist birds, and the constraints and opportunities faced by farmers in conserving forest on their land. Research findings directly inform the outreach program, in which project personnel educate the public about endangered species and extinction, and empower them to conserve these species by providing opportunities to participate.


To foster viable populations of threatened species in their Atlantic Forest habitats through habitat restoration, field research, environmental education and public participation. Specific objectives:
  1. To empower local small-holder farmers as conservationists to restore habitat for endangered birds, by providing 2000 native trees for farmers to plant on their land;
  2. To educate the local community about habitat conservation for Atlantic forest species through school programs;
  3. To provide training and education opportunities for young conservationists.


  1. Native trees. Of the 37 families that participated in tree-planting efforts in 2010 and 2011, 15 were interviewed in 2011 as part of a more extensive study of the opportunities and constraints for forest conservation on farms. Project personnel revisited these 15 farms in April 2013 to determine (1) what proportion of trees survived from the previous plantings, (2) which species/locations were most successful, and (3) how strongly farmers feel that they have contributed to biodiversity conservation.

    The results indicated a high variation of tree survival among farms ranging from 0-90%. Trees planted on hilltops, which are less susceptible to frost, and trees planted under the cover of other trees and shrubs were more likely to survive. Five particular species of trees were also identified as having higher survivorship. The degree of farmers' commitment to native tree-planting and knowledge of how to care for trees was also a factor in success. In interviews, almost all farmers indicated that planting trees helped Vinaceous Parrots. This information will help us fine-tune the tree-planting program for 2013-2014, focusing on planting on farms with the highest chance of tree survival.

  2. Schools. Project personnel developed fun educational activities and materials for teachers and students, delivered in full-day visits to 12 schools in April-June 2013. The activities for 2013 included:
    • making a collage of native wildlife (kindergarten to Grade 3 and their teachers)
    • playing a game involving videos (for schools with electricity) or printed photos (for s schools without electricity) of endangered species (Grades 4-9 and their teachers)
    • making a poster to disseminate conservation problems and solutions for endangered species (small group project, Grades 4-9 and their teachers)
    • interactive puppets and theatre to discuss how both animals and humans need the forest ( all students and teachers)
    • one-on-one interviews of randomly selected students to evaluate past work
    • short written survey for teachers
    Students were enthusiastic participants, and showed a high level of interest in learning about the forest and parrots. Student interviews revealed some misconceptions about parrot habitat needs, giving educators the opportunity to increase awareness. We were pleased that almost all students indicated that it was not good to keep Vinaceous Parrots as pets.

    We plan to repeat school visits in April-June 2014, incorporating lessons learned, and reaching a total of approximately 900 students and teachers.

  3. Internships. Students from the local park ranger college in San Pedro and other Argentine universities are helping with field research and school visits, and will have opportunities to develop theses within the project framework.

Track Record of Success

The 35 peer-reviewed publications by researchers involved in this project have led to changes in international Red List status and concrete conservation recommendations. As a result of their outreach activities, farmers who previously captured Vinaceous Parrots for pets now help monitor them, and 37 families have invested in the future population by planting 1500 native trees on their farms. Approximately 90 percent of primary school students now indicate that Vinaceous Parrots should be left in the forest, and the regional population trend has turned from a decades-long decline to a slight increase in 2010 and 2011. More than 200 young conservationists have participated; many are now conservation professionals. A recent result of this work is that Aves Argentinas (BirdLife International Partner in Argentina) has secured $50,000 to purchase land for conservation in the project area.

Expected Project Results

By September 2014, there will be a strengthened tree-planting program, with the best allocation of resources to ensure farmers contribute to endangered bird conservation and recognize that they are doing so. It is expected that 2000 native trees will be planted on at least 25 farms.

At least 80 percent of students and teachers in the project area should recognize key threats to local wildlife other than hunting, be able to identify local endangered species, and know how they can help conserve endangered species.

More generally, the project will help improve conditions for the recovery of populations of endangered bird species and associated forest biodiversity. Local farmers benefit from ecosystem services provided by the tree planting program (shade, windbreak, native fruits and natural remedies). Elementary school teachers and students benefit from project activities and materials adapted specifically to local problems. Young Argentine and overseas conservationists benefit from training and internship opportunities.

Long-term plans and impact

Long-term plans are to continue research on threatened birds in Misiones at least until 2016 and continue to respond with the types of outreach activities that have already proven effective. Over the longer term of the project, outreach activities are expected to result in a shift in thinking by local farmers, toward protection of endangered species and their habitat. It is hoped that farmers will take steps to conserve key habitats on their farms, and conservationists will learn to better help them do so. The ultimate goal is to achieve conservation of 20 endangered bird species in the mosaic landscape between existing protected areas in Misiones, a landscape that currently includes nesting trees and Atlantic forest patches and corridors, key stepping stones and habitat that allow these birds to persist in the province.  

The Vulnerable Helmeted Woodpecker foraging on a dead tree in Parque Provincial Cruce Caballero. (Photo: Luis Pagano)

Children and volunteer Emilse Mérida act as a flock of Vinaceous Parrots with the puppets they made at Paraje Progreso Primary School, May 2011. (This and following photos: Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná)

A farmer plows his field beside a Vinaceous Parrot nest in this forest remnant on his farm, November 2007.

"Animals" and children convince the teacher not to cut down the tree where the Vinaceous Parrot is nesting, Semillera Primary School, May 2010.

A farmer receives his native tree seedlings from Abilio and Alejandro, Santa Rosa, September 2011.

A father and son from Tobuna help check a tree-cavity that they saw Vinaceous Parrots inspecting in a forest remnant on their farm, spring 2007.

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