Putting the pieces back together: reversing deforestation across an entire region to reconnect South America’s most threatened forest

Atlantic Forests of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay
Emily Sobrevuelo
Atlantic Forests of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay
Putting the pieces back together: reversing deforestation across an entire region to reconnect South America’s most threatened forest
Emily Sobrevuelo

Investment is needed to help us expand our landscape successes to a regional scale

We’re sustaining local livelihoods, improving land-management to protect forest corridors, and connecting habitats for some of the world’s rarest forest bird species.
We’re showing that larger-scale regional partnerships, such as the Atlantic Forest Pact, are an effective way to tackle deforestation and enable reforestation globally.


Once a great swathe of green, ongoing fragmentation and degradation of the Atlantic Forest biome is driving extinctions – action is needed now to conserve what’s left.

Extensive deforestation has left only 16% of Atlantic Forest remaining, making it the most threatened tropical forest. Pockets of stunning forest are final refuges for bird species with global populations of just tens of adult birds. These fragments are surrounded by land cleared for subsistence and industrial agriculture, including timber, sugarcane, cocoa, cattle and – more recently – soy. A third of South America’s human population live and make a living in this biome. Very recently we witnessed the local extinction of two bird species: the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi and Cryptic Treehunter Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti. But by acting now, and with sensitivity to local community needs, we can turn the tide on extinction.   

San Rafael reserve © SAVE Brasil
Yerba Mate grower © Felix Chaparro


We are meeting the challenge of conserving the Atlantic Forests with a bold new approach – an ambitious regional-scale programme focused on key forested corridors delivering increased protection, restoration and sustainable livelihoods.

Thirty-five years of experience conserving some of the most critical fragments of Atlantic Forest has seen three national BirdLife Partners achieve key breakthroughs. Highlights include securing formal protection of 15,000 hectares of forest, establishing joint social-environmental ownership with the Mby´a Guaraní indigenous people (the first of its kind for Paraguay), and developing a Climate Community & Biodiversity Alliance Gold Standard REDD+ programme.

Yet the urgency of conserving the Atlantic Forests demands a bolder approach. Through BirdLife, we are joining forces to implement an ambitious programme across key corridors, focused on scaling up solutions that have been proven in practice. These include identifying Key Biodiversity Areas, securing improved protection and management, native forest restoration to increase connectivity, and scaling up sustainable tourism and agroforestry production (such as forest-friendly yerba mate). 

We will achieve this using three strategies: empowering strong local leadership and engagement, promoting best-practice models within the corridors, and building multi-stakeholder partnerships to develop strategies for scaling-up. Kicked-off with generous support from the Jensen Foundation, we have conserved priority sites within the corridors and are now laying the foundation for our larger ambition. With more support we could expand efforts to securing Atlantic Forest across the corridors and beyond, guaranteeing the future of the region’s Key Biodiversity Areas, and preventing further extinctions.

Seven-coloured Tanager © Ciro Albano
Scale of opportunity
170,000 hectares of Key Biodiversity Areas across the three countries
Flagship biodiversity
This hotspot holds the highest numbers of endemic and globally threatened bird species in the world, including 10 Critically Endangered species
Trees target
83,000 seedlings already planted and protected in Brazil’s priority corridor
A pioneering land ownership and agroforestry model which uses sustainable shade-grown yerba mate to protect forest fragments in Paraguay