Habitat loss and fragmentation in the Caldenal savanna region, Argentina

Mariano Gonzalez Roglich

The Caldenal is a semiarid savanna ecosystem of about 170,000 km2 located in central Argentina. This semiarid open forest system, dominated by Calden (Prosopis caldenia) and grasslands, is frequently interrupted by dunes, wetlands and lagoons. Major changes occurred in the area with the arrival of new settlers at the end of 19th century and have intensified since then. Introduction of species (e.g. red deer, Cervus elaphus; wild boar, Sus scrofa), extractive logging, overgrazing by livestock, changes in fire regimes, and replacement of natural systems for agriculture are the biggest threats the region is facing. In addition, much of the remaining Caldenal is highly degraded, where the open savanna characterized by scattered trees and dense cover of grasses has been replaced by dense thorn scrub. Cattle ranching is the main economic activity in the Caldenal, however hunting and tourism are growing activities, focused mainly on the attraction of international tourists. The overall objective of this study was to identify the value of different land uses (game reserves, cattle ranches and the one protected area) for the maintenance of native savanna habitat  in Caldenal, as a first step in designing a conservation strategy that incorporates private lands.