The GRAN CHACO (Quechua : chaku, "hunting land") is a sparsely
populated, hot and semi-arid lowland natural region of the Río de la
Plata basin, divided among eastern
Bolivia , western
Argentina and a portion of the Brazilian states of Mato
Mato Grosso do Sul , where it is connected with the
Pantanal region. This land is sometimes called the CHACO PLAIN.
* 2 History
* 3 Flora and fauna
* 4 Conservation issues
* 5 Administrative divisions in the
Indigenous peoples of the
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 External links
A bulldozer clearing native forest in the Chaco Boreal and
environmentalists campaigning against it Alto Chaco, virgin
forest in dry season Bajo Chaco, extensive cattle ranching
Deforestation for cattle farming in the Paraguayan part of the Chaco
REGIONS OF ARGENTINA
* Gran Chaco
Gran Chaco is about 647,500 km² (250,000 sq mi) in size, though
estimates differ. It is located west of the
Paraguay River and east of
Andes , and is mostly an alluvial sedimentary plain shared among
Bolivia and Argentina. It stretches from about 17° to 33°
South latitude and between 65° and 60° West longitude, though
Historically the Chaco has been divided in three main parts: the
Chaco Austral or Southern Chaco, south of the
Bermejo River and inside
Argentinian territory, blending into the
Pampa region in its
southernmost end; the Chaco Central or Central Chaco between the
Bermejo and the
Pilcomayo River to the north, also now in Argentinian
territory; and the Chaco Boreal or Northern Chaco, north of the
Pilcomayo up to the Brazilian
Pantanal , inside Paraguayan territory
and sharing some area with Bolivia.
Locals sometimes divide it today by the political borders, giving
rise to the terms Argentinian Chaco, Paraguayan Chaco and Bolivian
Chaco. (Inside Paraguay, people sometimes use the expression Central
Chaco for the area roughly in the middle of the Chaco Boreal, where
Mennonite colonies are established.)
The Chaco Boreal may be divided in two: closer to the mountains in
the west, the Alto Chaco (Upper Chaco), sometimes known as Chaco Seco
(or Dry Chaco), is very dry and sparsely vegetated. To the east, less
arid conditions combined with favorable soil characteristics permit a
seasonally dry higher-growth thorn tree forest, and further east still
higher rainfall combined with improperly drained lowland soils result
in a somewhat swampy plain called the Bajo Chaco (Lower Chaco),
sometimes known as Chaco Húmedo (Humid Chaco). It has a more open
savanna vegetation consisting of palm trees, quebracho trees and
tropical high-grass areas, with a wealth of insects . The landscape is
mostly flat and slopes at a 0.004 degree gradient to the east. This
area is also one of the distinct physiographic provinces of the
Paraguay Plain division.
The areas more hospitable to development are along the
Bermejo and Pilcomayo Rivers . It is a great source of timber and
tannin , which is derived from the native quebracho tree. Special
tannin factories have been constructed there. The wood of the palo
santo from the Central Chaco is the source of oil of guaiac (a
fragrance for soap ).
Paraguay also cultivates mate in the lower part
of the Chaco.
Large tracts of the central and northern Chaco have high soil
fertility , sandy alluvial soils with elevated levels of phosphorus
and a topography that is favorable for agricultural development. Other
aspects are challenging for farming: a semi-arid to semi-humid climate
(600–1300 mm annual rainfall) with a six-month dry season and
sufficient fresh groundwater restricted to roughly one third of the
region, two thirds being without groundwater or with groundwater of
high salinity. Soils are generally erosion prone once the forest has
been cleared. In the central and northern
Paraguay Chaco, occasional
dust storms have caused major top soil loss.
Prior to national independence of the nations that compose the Chaco,
the entire area was a separate colonial region named by the Spaniards
Gran Chaco had been a disputed territory since 1810. Officially,
it was supposed to be part of Argentina,
Bolivia and Paraguay,
although a bigger land portion west of the
Paraguay River had belonged
Paraguay since its independence.
Argentina claimed territories
south of the
Bermejo River until Paraguay's defeat in the War of the
Triple Alliance in 1870 established its current border with Argentina.
Over the next few decades,
Bolivia began to push the natives out and
settle in the Gran Chaco, while
Paraguay ignored it.
Paraguay River for shipping oil out into the sea (it had become a
land-locked country after the loss of its Pacific coast in the War of
the Pacific ), and
Paraguay claimed ownership of the land. This became
the backdrop to
The Gran Chaco War (1932–1935) between
Bolivia over supposed oil in the Chaco Boreal (the aforementioned
region north of the
Pilcomayo River and to the west of the Paraguay
River ). Eventually, Argentine Foreign Minister Carlos Saavedra Lamas
mediated a cease fire and subsequent treaty signed in 1938, which gave
Paraguay three quarters of the Chaco Boreal and gave
corridor to the
Paraguay River with the ability to use the Puerto
Casado and the right to construct their own port. In the end, no oil
was found in the region. Road construction in the deep Gran Chaco
during the 1960s
Mennonites immigrated into the Paraguayan part of the region from
Canada in the 1920s; more came from the
USSR in the 1930s and
immediately following World War II. These immigrants created some of
the largest and most prosperous municipalities in the deep Gran Chaco.
The region is home to over nine million people, divided about evenly
among Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and including around 100,000 in
Paraguay. The area remains relatively underdeveloped, In the 1960s,
the Paraguayan authorities constructed the Trans-Chaco Highway and the
Argentine National Highway Directorate, National Routes 16 and 81, in
an effort to encourage access and development. All three highways
extend about 700 km (430 mi) from east to west and are now completely
paved, as are a network of nine Brazilian highways in
Mato Grosso do
FLORA AND FAUNA
An Algarrobo , white carob tree, in the
Gran Chaco area of
Argentina. This prized shade tree is common to the area.
Gran Chaco has some of the highest temperatures on the continent.
It has high biodiversity , containing around 3,400 plant species, 500
birds, 150 mammals and 220 reptiles and amphibians.
The floral characteristics of the
Gran Chaco are varied given the
large geographical span of the region. The dominant vegetative
structure is xerophytic deciduous forests with multiple layers
including a canopy (trees) , sub-canopy, shrub layer and herbaceous
layer . There are ecosystems such as riverine forests , wetlands ,
savannas , and cactus stands as well.
At higher elevations of the eastern zone of the Humid/Sub-humid Chaco
there are transitional mature forests from the wet forests of Southern
Brazil. These woodlands are dominated by canopy trees such as
Handroanthus impetiginosus and characterized by frequent lianas and
epiphytes . This declines to seasonally flooded forests, at lower
elevations, that are dominated by
Schinopsis spp., a common plains
tree genus often harvested for its tannin content and dense wood. The
understory comprises bromeliad and cactus species as well as hardy
shrubs like Schinus fasciculatus . These lower areas lack lianas but
have abundant epiphytic species like
Tillandsia . The river systems
that flow through the area, such as the Rio
Paraguay and Rio Parana
allow for seasonally flooded semi evergreen gallery forests that hold
riparian species such as Tessaria integrifolia and Salix humboltiana .
Other seasonally flooded ecosystems of this area include palm
Copernicia alba ) savannas with a bunch grass dominated
To the west, in the Semi-Arid/Arid Chaco, there are medium-sized
forests consisting of Aspidospermum quebracho-blanco and Schinopsis
quebracho with a slightly shorter subcanopy made up of several species
Fabaceae family as well as several arboreal cacti species
that distinguish this area of the Chaco. There is a scrub-like shrub
and herbaceous layer. On sandy soils, the thick woodlands turn into
savannas where the aforementioned species prevail as well as species
Jacaranda mimosifolia . The giant
Stetsonia coryne , found
throughout the western Semi-Arid/Arid region becomes very conspicuous
in these sandy savannas. There are various upland systems of plant
associations that occur throughout the Gran Chaco. The Highlands of
the Argentinian Chaco are made up of, on the dry, sunny side (up to
Schinopsis haenkeana woodlands. The cooler side of the uplands
Zanthoxylum coco (locally referred to as
Fagara coco ) and
Schinus molleoides (locally referred to as Lithrea molleoides ) as the
predominant species. Other notable species include Bougainvillea
stipitata , and several spp. from
Fabaceae . The Paraguyan uplands
have other woodland slope ecosystems, notably, those dominated by
Anadenanthera colubrina on moist slopes. Both of these upland
systems, as well as numerous other
Gran Chaco areas, are rich with
Faunal diversity in the
Gran Chaco is high as well.The
Gran Chaco has
high levels of biodiversity, containing around 3,400 plant species,
500 birds, 150 mammals and 220 reptiles and amphibians. Animals
typically associated with tropical and subtropical forests are often
found throughout the eastern humid Chaco, including jaguars, howler
monkeys, peccaries, deer, and tapirs.
Edentate species, including
anteaters and armadillos, are readily seen here as well. Being home
to at least ten species, the Argentinian Chaco is the location of the
peak diversity for the armadillo, including species such as the
nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) whose range extends north
to the southern US, and the southern three-banded armadillo
(Tolypeutes matacus). The pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphrous
truncates), is found nowhere else in the world. The giant armadillo
(Priodontes maximus), while not found in the eastern humid Chaco, can
be seen in the drier arid Chaco of the west. Some other notable
endemics of the region include the
San Luis tuco-tuco (Ctenomys
pontifex). This small rodent is only found in the Argentinian Chaco.
All of 60 species of
Ctenomys are endemic to the continent of South
America. The Chacoan peccary (
Catagonus wagneri ), locally known as
tauga, is the largest of the three peccary species found in the area.
This species was thought to be extinct by scientists until 1975, when
it was recorded by Dr. Ralph Wetzel.
Due to the climatic regime of the Gran Chaco, herpetofauna are
restricted to moist refugia in various places throughout the chaco.
Rotting logs, debris piles, old housing settlement, wells, and
seasonal farm ponds are examples of such refugia. The black-legged
seriema (Chunga burmeisteri), blue-crowned parakeet (Aratinga
Picui ground dove (Columbina picui), guira cuckoo
(Guira guira), little thornbird (Phacellodomus sibilatrix) and
many-colored Chaco finch (Saltaitricula multicolor) are notable of the
409 bird species that are resident or breed in the Gran Chaco. 252 of
these Chaco species are endemic to South America.
In September 1995, the Kaa-Iya del
Gran Chaco National Park and
Integrated Management Natural Area was established in an area of the
Chaco in Bolivia. It is administered and was established solely by the
indigenous peoples , including the Izoceño Guaraní , the
Sorghum harvest 2008, Linea 14, Agua Dulce Region, Alto Paraguay
The Chaco is one of South America's last agricultural frontiers. Very
sparsely populated and lacking sufficient all-weather roads and basic
infrastructure (the Argentinian part is more developed than the
Paraguayan or Bolivian part), it has long been too remote for crop
planting. The central Chaco's
Mennonite colonies are a notable
Two factors may substantially change the Chaco in the near future:
low land valuations and the region's suitability to grow fuel crops
. Suitability for the cultivation of
Jatropha has been proven. Sweet
sorghum as an ethanol plant may prove viable, too, since sorghum is a
traditional local crop for domestic and feedstock use. The feasibility
of switchgrass is currently being studied by Argentina's INTA , as is
the Karanda’y palm tree in the Paraguayan Chaco.
While advancements in agriculture can bring some improvements in
infrastructure and employment for the region, loss of habitat / virgin
forest is substantial and will likely increase poverty . Paraguay,
after having lost more than 90% of its Atlantic Rainforest between
1975 and 2005, is now losing its xenopheric forest (dry forests) in
the Chaco at an annual rate of 220,000 hectares (540,000 acres) (2008)
In mid-2009 a projected law, initiated by the Liberal Party , that
would have outlawed deforestion in the
Paraguay Chaco altogether,
"Deforestacion Zero en el Chaco" did not get a majority in the
Deforestation in the Argentinian part of the Chaco amounted to an
average of 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) per year between 2001 and
2007 According to
Fundación Avina , a local NGO, on average, 1130
hectares are cut down per day – this equals 2300 football fields.
The soy plantations not only eliminate the forest, but also other
types of agriculture as well. Indigenous communities are losing their
land to agrobusinesses and suffer under the intense use of fertilisers
and pesticides , that poisons the water they depend on. Since 2007,
there is a law which is supposed to regulate and control the cutting
of timber in the Gran Chaco, but illegal logging continues.
Among the profiteers of the newly created agricultural areas in the
Paraguay parts of the
Gran Chaco are U.S.-based agribusinesses Cargill
Bunge Ltd. and
Archer Daniels Midland Co..
ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS IN THE GRAN CHACO
Dam on the Río Negro , near
Resistencia, Chaco (Argentina); the
torrential rains that follow the region's long dry season make
flood-control works critical Toba family,
Formosa Province ,
Argentina, 1892 A jaguar at rest in the Formosa Province
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
The following Argentine provinces, Bolivian and Paraguayan
departments and Brazilian states lie in the
Gran Chaco area, either
entirely or in part.
Santa Fe Province
Santa Fe Province
Santiago del Estero Province
Santiago del Estero Province
Santa Cruz Department
Paraguay Department ,
Presidente Hayes Department
Presidente Hayes Department
Mato Grosso do Sul
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE GRAN CHACO
Gran Chaco people
* Abipón , Argentina, historic group
* Angaite (Angate), northwestern Paraguay
Ayoreo (Morotoco, Moro, Zamuco),
Bolivia and Paraguay
Zamuko ), Paraguay
* Chané ,
Argentina and Bolivia
Chiquitano (Chiquito, Tarapecosi), eastern Bolivia
* Chorote (
Choroti ), Iyojwa\'ja Chorote , Manjuy ), Argentina,
Bolivia, and Paraguay
* Guana (Kaskihá), Paraguay
* Guaraní , Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and
* Bolivian Guarani
* Chiriguano , Bolivia
* Guarayo (East Bolivian Guarani)
* Chiripá (Tsiripá, Ava), Bolivia
* Pai Tavytera (Pai, Montese, Ava), Bolivia
* Tapieté (Guaraní Ñandéva ,
Yanaigua ), eastern Bolivia
Yuqui (Bia), Bolivia
Guaycuru peoples , Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and
* Mbayá (Caduveo), historic
* Kadiweu , Brazil
* Mocoví (Mocobí), Argentina
* Pilagá (Pilage Toba)
* Toba (Qom, Frentones), Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay
Argentina and Brazil
Lengua people (
* North Lengua (Eenthlit , Enlhet , Maskoy ), Paraguay
* South Lengua , Paraguay
* Lulé (Pelé, Tonocoté), Argentina
* Maká (Towolhi), Paraguay
Chulupí , Chulupe, Guentusé), Argentina
Sanapaná (Quiativis), Paraguay
* Vilela , Argentina
* Wichí (
Argentina and Bolivia
Campo del Cielo
* Kaa-Iya del
Gran Chaco National Park and Integrated Management
* Tributaries of the
Río de la Plata
* ^ Don Nicol. "A postcard from the central Chaco" (PDF). Retrieved
2009-01-23. alluvial sandy soils have P (phosphorus) levels of up to
* ^ "The Gran Chaco". WWF. Retrieved 2017-07-06. The
Gran Chaco was
one of the last frontiers in South America – but agricultural
development, largely driven by soy, is gathering pace.
* ^ A B What is
Gran Chaco vegetation in South America? I. A
review. Contribution to the study of flora and vegetation of Chaco. V.
Candollea, 48: 145-172, 1993.
* ^ A B Napamalo: The Giant Anteater of the Gran Chaco, 2003.
* ^ Conservation ecology of armadillos in the Chaco region of
Argentina, 1: 16-17, Edentata, 1994.
* ^ Guiá de los Mamiferos Argentinos, 19840.
* ^ Catagonous, an "extinct" peccary, alive in Paraguay,
189:379-381, Science, 1975.
* ^ ECOLOGICAL NOTES ON PARAGUAYAN CHACO HERPETOFAUNA, 12(3),
433-435, Journal of Herpetology, 1978.
* ^ A Zoogeographic Analysis Of The South American Chaco Avifauna,
154(3), 165-352,Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History,
* ^ "Impenetrable olvido (..tan bajo el valor de la tierra que con
dos campañas, sobra..)" (in Spanish). AMBIENTE-ARGENTINA. Retrieved
* ^ "Cada vez más Uruguayos compran campos Guaranés" (PDF) (in
Spanish). Consejo de Educacion Secundaria de Uruguay. 26 June 2008.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2009.
* ^ "
Jatropha en el Chaco" (in Spanish). Diario ABC Digital.
* ^ "
Jatropha Chaco" (in Spanish). Incorporación del cultivo
Jatropha Curcas L en zonas marginales de la provincia de chaco.
Archived from the original on 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
* ^ "Aprovechamiento de recursos vegetales y animales para la
produccion de biocombustibles" (PDF) (in Spanish). INTA. 26 June 2008.
* ^ "Varias iniciativas están en marcha con vistas a la
producción de biodiesel" (in Spanish). RIEDEX / Ministerio de
Industria y Comercio (de Paraguay). Archived from the original on
2009-03-08. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
* ^ "Deforestation in Paraguay: Over 1500 football pitches lost a
day in the Chaco". World Land Trust. 30 November 2009.
* ^ H. Ricardo Grau, Ignacio Gasparri (27 June 2008).
"Deforestation and fragmentation of Chaco dry forest in NW Argentina
* ^ MacDonald, Christine (2014-07-28). "The Tragic Deforestation of
the Chaco". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M "Cultural Thesaurus." National Museum
of the American Indian. (retrieved 18 Feb 2011)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to