Paraje Tres Cerros are three rocky outcrops (maximum height 180 m above sea level) found in Corrientes Province, Argentina. The outcrops constitute true geologic “islands” immersed in the vast Corrientes plains. They also represent unique ecosystems where flora and fauna have experimented with evolution, isolated in their own singular combination of environmental conditions relative to the ecological matrix surrounding them. Because of these conditions, it is often that these types of ecosystems are characterized by endemism, biogeographic rarities and relict populations. Despite this, isolated rock outcrops are one of the ecosystems least studied and understood by scientists. Of the studies that have been done, most concentrate on flora, with scarce and isolated references to fauna. These ecosystems have also drawn the attention of conservation biologists, who highlight the need to protect them because of their fragility, their unique biodiversity and the current lack of knowledge about how they function.
The objective of this project from the beginning was to contribute to the conservation of the Paraje Tres Cerros rocky outcrops as a unique landscape of the Argentine Mesopotamian coast and as a site of high endemism and biodiversity of herpetofauna. The primary research efforts included surveys of plants and animals to specifically characterize biodiversity among the outcrops. We identified a total of 296 vertebrate species: 32 fishes, 24 amphibians, 29 reptiles, 182 birds and 29 mammals. Two reptiles are endemic to Paraje Tres Cerros and were new species discoveries. Seventeen species are classified nationally as threatened.
Meanwhile, considering the challenges that arose with a previous attempt to convince the provincial government to establish a nature preserve at Paraje Tres Cerros, we embarked on an effort to work with the community and private landowners to create a private protected area in this region. Outreach at the local primary school and a signage campaign throughout the region were critical to engaging the regional population in the idea of a protected area and biodiversity conservation. The management plan developed with private landowners yielded the desired conservation outcomes: in 2014, they chose to establish the Private Paraje Tres Cerros Nature Reserve. ($5,430)