By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay

Last month, three Guarani communities, the local Argentine government of Misiones, and the UK-based NGO World Land Trust forged an agreement to create a nature reserve connecting three protected areas in the fractured, and almost extinct, Atlantic Forest. Dubbed the Emerald Green Corridor, the reserve protects 3,764 hectares (9,301 acres) in Argentina; although relatively small, the land connects three protected other protected areas creating a combined conservation area (41,000 hectares) around the size of Barbados in the greater Yaboti Biosphere Reserve. In Argentina only 1 percent of the historical Atlantic Forest survives.

“The agreement that has been reached is truly ground-breaking,” John Burton the head of World Land Trust (WLT) said in a press release, “and it’s been heralded as such by the government of Misiones. In my view, it is probably the most important land purchase the WLT will ever make, because of the innovations involved and the wealth of biodiversity it protects.”

Once stretching along South America’s Atlantic coast from northern Brazil to Argentina, the Atlantic Forest (also known as the Mata Atlantica) has been fragmented by centuries of logging, agriculture, and urbanization. Around 8 percent of the Atlantic Forest still survives, most of it in Brazil, and most of it fragmented and degraded.

“The rainforest of Misiones is the largest remaining fragment of the Atlantic Rainforest of South America. It is full of unique plants and important animal species—it is vital to preserve the best sample of this ecosystem,” noted Sir Ghillean Prance, an advisor to the project and scientific director of the Eden Project, in a press release.

The establishment of the Emerald Green Corridor, which was purchased from logging company Moconá Forestal, ends 16 years of the Guarani communities fighting for their traditional lands. The land will now be considered Traditional Indigenous Lands, while the indigenous community is currently working on a conservation management plan to protect the forest and its species.

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