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Bioma Pampa-Quebradas del Norte Biosphere Reserve, Uruguay

The Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 110,882 ha in a biogeographic region characterized by a rolling topography reaching a maximum of 369 metres in height, a humid-subtropical climate with over 1,000 mm annual rainfall, and a predominance of subtropical grasslands.

Designation date: 2014


Regional network:  Red de Comités y Reservas de Biosfera de Iberoamérica y el Caribe (IberoMAB) 

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface : 110,882 ha

    • Core area(s): 8,958 ha
    • Buffer zone(s): 49,821 ha
    • Transition zone(s): 52,103 ha

    Location: 31°07'20"S - 55°78'10"W

    Administrative Authorities

    Intendencia Departamental de Rivera
    Agraciada 570
    Rivera, 40000

    Tel.: 598 462 31900


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The biosphere reserve is found on the east side of the Cuchilla de Haedo among the headwaters of rivers that flow into the River Tacuarembó. The Bioma Pampa-Quebradas del Norte Biosphere Reserve also contains recharge areas of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest reserves of fresh water on the planet. The landscape is characterized by quebradas (ravines and gorges) situated between high embankments of the basaltic coasts of Cuchilla.

    This biosphere reserve comprises a mosaic of different ecosystems, including a primary forest with subtropical jungle, the quebradas, which represents the southernmost vestige of the ‘Atlantic Forest’ environment. Quebradas forests are located in depressions and present various types of vegetation. In the deeper areas trees can be observed of up to 25 metres in height and abundant undergrowth of ferns, orchids and Piperaceae, as well as epiphytes (Bromeliaceae, Orchidaceae, Cactaceae). The average density is approximately 350 trees per hectare. The subtropical jungle of quebradas is one of the main attractions of the biosphere reserve. The region of the Cuchilla de Haedo functions as a biological corridor for tropical species entering into Uruguayan territory, and represents the southernmost point for the presence of such fauna in Latin America. Rare species of amphibians and reptiles in the area include Hyla uruguaya (the Uruguayan frog), Melanophryniscus devincenzii (the Toad of Devincenzi) and Crotalus durissus terrificus (the South American rattlesnake). More than 150 species of birds have been identified in the quebradas, such as Theristicus caudatus (the buff-necked ibis), Accipiter bicolor (the bicoloured hawk) and Milvago chimachima (the yellow-headed caracara), among others, all of which are rare in other parts of the country.

    The other important habitat of this biosphere reserve, the pampa biome, is rich in temperate grasslands and acts as an important nesting area for many bird species. The biome is predominantly formed by natural pasture and is characterized by high species diversity with a large predominance of grasses. For this reason, such grasslands are recognized as a conservation priority in the Neotropics. At present, however, only 0.7% of the grasslands are protected and the ecosystem faces significant threats to its conservation, in particular overgrazing.


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    The biosphere reserve is also inhabited by a small number of people (around 2,000) living in towns of 10 to 50 houses amid a rural environment. The villagers are predominantly smallholder farmers who engage in agricultural activities. Socio-cultural development of the reserve will be linked to the promotion and enhancement of gaucho traditions. The present inhabitants, who are representatives of the gaucho culture, originate from the hybridization of a triple matrix: native Guarani people, Europeans and afro-descendants. The main economic activities of the local population are extensive livestock farming, family-agriculture, including food crops and animal husbandry, and afforestation. Some family farms also include ecotourism activities linked to ranching and/or natural forests. Locations such as La Palma and Laureles are becoming reference points for rural tourism in the biosphere reserve.

    Despite the high potential for the development of rural, natural, scientific and sportive tourism, this is still an incipient economic sector compared to livestock farming, agriculture and forest-related activities. However, tourism is seen as an opportunity for the biosphere reserve to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and to contribute to the diversification of economic activities. In this context, the biosphere reserve combines traditional economic practices, based mainly on the cattle-ranching tradition, with sustainable practices and values. One of the main challenges is to develop management strategies for livestock and other traditional economic activities that not only conserve the bio-cultural diversity of the protected area, but also enhance productive potential and include young people and women in the local economy.


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    Last updated: February 2019