The disappearing Dry Chaco, one of the last dry forest systems on earth

Noé U. de la Sancha, Sarah A. Boyle, Nancy E. McIntyre, Daniel M. Brooks, Alberto Yanosky, Ericka Cuellar Soto, Fatima Mereles, Micaela Camino, Richard D. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Context: The Dry Chaco spans more than 87 million hectares across Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. This unique forest system has experienced extensive loss and fragmentation due to land-use change, with different land-use histories in the three countries. This forest loss has altered landscape connectivity for the Dry Chaco’s associated biota. Objectives: We compared patterns of deforestation-induced fragmentation and concomitant changes in structural landscape connectivity between 2000 and 2019 in the three countries to identify consistent patterns that might facilitate biome-wide conservation. Methods: We quantified forest cover in the Dry Chaco of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay for the years 2000 and 2019 at 30 m resolution. We analyzed structural connectivity at three scales. Then, we identified and visualized the most important stepping stones per country per year. Results: Between 2000 and 2019, the overall extent of Dry Chaco forest cover decreased by 20.2% (9.5 million ha). All three counties experienced substantial reductions, with Paraguay undergoing the greatest loss and fragmentation relative to 2000. Most of the overall network metrics decreased from 2000 to 2019 for Paraguay and Bolivia, but Argentina experienced increased coalescence distance and average nodal connectance. Dispersal-level metrics showed clustering threshold distances between 1000 and 2000 m for each country in both years. Conclusions: The large number of forest fragments and distances between them suggest that some mammals characteristic of the biome may be experiencing negative impacts from this fragmentation. Contemporary and future challenges of uncoordinated national conservation and management policies, land speculation, and increased human infrastructure will accelerate the rate of deforestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2997-3012
Number of pages16
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Deforestation
  • Graph theory
  • Paraguay
  • Structural connectivity


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