Paraguay is a country rich in biological diversity and ecosystems. Paraguay is divided into 11 ecoregions, six of which are in the Eastern Region and five in the Western Region. The Eastern Region of the country is the richest in forest: the mountain forests on the slope of the Amambay and Mbaracayú, and the forests of the Paraná and the Central region.

The south-eastern part of Paraguay is part of the Atlantic Forest hotspot, one of the 36 biodiversity hotspots of the world. Originally, the forest extended over 1.5 million km² along the South American Atlantic coast, covering tropical and subtropical climates across highly heterogeneous relief conditions, which led to outstanding levels of endemism and species richness. The Atlantic Forest is actually extremely heterogeneous and encompasses large blocks of evergreen to semi-deciduous forests (the majority), but also deciduous forests, mangroves, swamps, coastal forest and scrub, high-altitude grasslands, and mixed Araucaria forests. This diversified mosaic of habitats is currently home of nearly 20,000 species of plants, 263 mammals, 936 birds, 306 reptiles, and 475 amphibians. The Atlantic Forest has been historically altered by humans, which has resulted in severe habitat loss and fragmentation. The forest cover is now reduced to around 12% of its original extent, including regenerating areas and degraded forests, which are mostly spread in small fragments. As a result, many species are currently threatened with extinction.

Paraguay also contains a portion of the Cerrado hotspot. The Cerrado Hotspot has a land area of 2,039,386 km² in Brazil, 1,560,000 ha in the Oriental Region, 1,227,920 ha in the Western Region of Paraguay, plus some 3,017,900 ha in Bolivia. Over the years, the hotspot has lost approximately 50% of its natural coverage. 

The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) has identified 58 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) in Paraguay, which cover about 8.6% of the country. KBAs are sites of global significance for biodiversity conservation and require priority protection due the vulnerability and uniqueness of the animal and plant populations that reside in them.

The Ypoá lake, Negro River, Tinfunqué, Chaco Lodge lagoon, Teniente Rojas Silva lagoon, and Estero Milagro have been recognized as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar convention. A total of 42 species of Nearctic migratory birds have been recorded, many of which use the Asunción Bay as a migration zone.

Although no recent data are available to assess with certainty the extent of species loss, 121 vascular plant and 229 vertebrate species have been identified (as of 2011) as endangered or threatened with extinction in Paraguay.

Exotic invasive species recorded in the country include the gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia), Australian Psittacidae such as the Australian parrot, love birds, the white cockatoo, and cocotillas; rodents such as house mouse (Mus musculus), Norwegian or sewer rat (Ratus norvegicus), and black rat (Rattus rattus), which came from Europe, Africa, or Asia on ships and colonised new environments and adapted to local ecosystems.


Land use change and deforestation have been identified as the main threats to the country’s biodiversity.

Clearing in the Atlantic Forest is frequently associated with other human disturbances (e.g., hunting, logging, collection of non-timber forest products) that have driven a fraction of its unique biodiversity to nearly complete extinction. Major threats to the Cerrado are cattle-ranching, annual crops (mainly soybeans, maize, and cotton), biofuels (sugar cane), logging for charcoal production, wildfires, and commercial forest plantations.


Key policies and governance approach

Paraguay ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and national reports have been submitted on a regular basis. The National Strategy and Action Plan for the Conservation of Biodiversity was approved in 2003.

Law No. 2,524/04, aimed at prohibiting the conversion of forested areas in the Eastern region, was passed in 2004. Implementation of the law helped to reduce deforestation in this region by 92%.

Paraguay's system of protected areas (SINASIP) currently comprises 100 protected areas covering 6,199,984 ha, or 15% of the country’s territory. Protected areas have been increasing since 1990, when they comprised only 2.74% of the country's area.

Paraguay has set aside 38 protected areas in the Atlantic Forest encompassing a total area of 303,296 ha, or 3.5% of the ecoregion in the country. The largest protected areas are San Rafael National Park with 72,849 ha and Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve with 64,405 ha.

Conservation efforts of the Cerrado in Paraguay include three national parks (Cerro Corá, Paso Bravo and Serranía de San Luis) and several private nature reserves (Mbaracayú Forest, Cerrados del Tagatiya, Tagatiya-mi, Arrecife, and Laguna Blanca).

Paraguay has adopted several regulations related to the protection of biodiversity, such as the 1973 Forestry Law, the 1992 Law on Wildlife, and the 2004 Prohibition of Transformation and Land Conversion Activities in the Eastern Region (known as Zero Deforestation law).



The coverage of protected areas is still limited, leaving a number of biodiversity-important sites and vulnerable ecosystems out. Only ten of the 58 Key Biodiversity Areas of Paraguay are fully covered by protected areas, 17 are partially covered, and the remaining 31 are entirely outside of the existent protected areas.

A recent assessment showed that only 42 out of the 100 protected areas included in SINASIP have, or have had, a management plan. Deficiencies in the national protected area system, insufficient government funds for nature conservation, and the financial burdens faced by landowners within the private reserve system mean that in practice many reserves receive only nominal protection. For example, the Bella Vista national park was eliminated due to settlement by colonists.

Paraguay has not attained the Aichi goal of having 17% of terrestrial ecosystems under protection.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Initiatives aimed to keep and increase protected areas are included in the Protected Wild Areas Law. The National Framework Plan for the Development and Land Management of Paraguay aims, among other goals, to reduce land use change and deforestation. The National Plan for Reforestation aims to reforest up to 45,000 ha in 15 years.


Goals and Ambitions

Strategy 2.4 Valuing environmental capital of Paraguay’s National Development Plan 2030 aims to protect and sustainably manage biodiversity and encouraging reforestation activities aimed at reducing the loss and degradation of native forests, among other objectives.

National goals are oriented towards: 1) strengthening the National System of Protected Areas to reach 17% of the country; 2) promoting sustainable tourism by enhancing natural and cultural heritage; 3) ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of the land through land use planning management; 4) implementing and strengthening national environmental policies; 5) inclusion and participation of minorities and vulnerable groups in conservation and environmental planning; 6) formulating national forestry and water policies that promote sustainable management including local communities; 7) promoting clean energy projects integrating the CBD’s framework; 8) formulation and implementation of national policies on air quality and atmospheric pollution; and 9) promoting biotechnological projects that support biodiversity conservation while enhancing the agricultural and forestry sector, based on the CBD and Aichi targets.

  • The country should reinforce biodiversity conservation through the expansion of protected areas to meet the goal of 17% of the country’s area under protection.
  • Logging and agricultural expansion (mainly for soy production) should be better regulated.
  • Policies to promote nature-based solutions in which productive systems are part of the ecosystems could help mitigating their impacts on biodiversity.