Science and Education: Contribution to the Conservation of the Lizards at the Boundary Southwestern of the Western Chaco Ecoregion

Fernández Reinoso Ruben Darío

In the Chaco ecoregion of the San Juan province, high rates of deforestation, intensive overgrazing, and agricultural production systems are established as threats to lizard species and their habitats. In this project we intend to contribute to the conservation of the Chaco lizards in two ways: On the one hand, with scientific data on the diversity, abundance and health status of lizards in unexplored, natural and degraded areas. On the other, through change in the perception of lizards by settlers, promoting knowledge of the ecosystem role of these species. Likewise, it is proposed to address, together with the inhabitants, the effect of habitat modification on lizards by the activities that are carried out in this region. The information gathered in this study It will lead to a significant and concrete contribution to the conservation of Chaco in general and to the Chaco saurians particularly.

In San Juan, the Chaco occupies less than 10% of the province and it is located within the protected area ‘Valle Fértil Natural Park’, with a Multiple Use Reserve category. According to the Territorial Order of Native Forests (Law 1439-L) almost entirely, it is protected with yellow category: sectors of medium value of conservation that can be subjected to different uses. Less than 1% is protected with the highest category (red colour), being these sectors of high conservation value. The degradation and modification of the forest caused by clearing, wood extraction, intensive over-grazing and agricultural production systems are established as threats to lizard species and their habitats.

Our project combines research, extension, education, and conservation proposals. In this work, we aim to assess changes in the diversity, abundance and health status of lizard species in unsampled and highly threatened areas of the Western Chaco of San Juan. Some species of the ensemble such as S. doellojuradoi, categorized as Near Threatened, and L. paronae, categorized as Data Defficient by the IUCN, are affected by habitat modifications severely (Pelegrin and Bucher, 2012) and they have been listed as vulnerable according to the Argentine Herpetological Association (Abdala et al., 2012).

In addition, A. abalosi is a species of Chaco recently cited for San Juan that does not have any type of categorization in Argentina. This information will allow the identification of priority areas for conservation, identifying areas of endemicity and diversity as well as knowing the effects of degradation of the Chaco forest on lizard populations. Due to the lack of material in formal education in rural Chaco areas, we will also develop an outreach campaign with the intention of improving popular knowledge about lizards and demystifying false beliefs. Also, we will inform the inhabitants about species that make up the assemblies, their state of conservation, the modification and degradation of their habitats and the necessary actions for their conservation. This outreach campaign will focus on the residents of the community in general, schools in the area and other sectors of the region. He will also work with park rangers and protected area administrators. The information collected in this study will be used for future management plans for the area and for the conservation of reptiles in the southwest limit of the western Chaco ecoregion.

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