Conservation of Biodiversity in Bolivia
Given the richness, in an international context, Bolivia is considered a “mega-diverse” country.
It is numbered among the ten countries containing the greatest richness of vertebrate species as well as occupying fourth place in the world for number of butterfly species. It is also among the ten countries that have the most diverse quantities of birds and mammals, among the first eleven with more diversity of fresh water fish, between the first thirteenth with more species richness of amphibians and tiger beetles. Also, there are recognized around 50 domesticated native species and approximately 3000 species of medicinal plants used at the local or regional level. is the center of origin of important species like chilis, bell peppers, potatoes, peanuts, beans, yucca cassava and a variety of palms.
This wide gamut of biological resources is actually found to be threatened and at risk of disappearing altogether from the demographic pressures that result in the destruction of habitats, deforestation by burning, contamination and overuse of the biodiversity interfering with its productive capacity. The selected extraction of species, illegal hunting, as well as the loss of genetic variability due to the replacement of local varieties of plants by introduced species, are other factors that determine this crisis.
The zones of the Amazonian basin are: rich in varieties having a high level of resilience; dynamic; and characterized by species of wide distribution. On the other hand, some Andean zones contain species with restricted distribution coinciding partially with the onslaught of human pressure, especially in transition zones in the higher parts the central valleys. The eco-regions that throughout history have suffered major impact are La Puna (bleak tablelands of the
Andes ) and the Bosques Secos Interandinos (Inter-Andean Dry Forests).
Because of their biogeographical importance, their fragility and their potentialities, they are priorities for the conservation of intact ecosystems, especially the largest extensions like:
The lowland forests and those of the northeastern slopes.
The large and intact ecosystems related to the hydro-climatic processes like the humid forest of the Yungas and the southwest Amazon.
The centers of endemism and species richness like the Yungas. the Sub- Andean Amazonian Forests, and the Inter-Andean Dry Forests .
The diversity centers of wild relatives of domestic species.
The biologics corridors.
Although it is recognized that it is most important to identify priorities on eco-regional and ecosystem levels, in order to detect those threats that affect a great number of resources, it is also necessary to consider individual threatened species. Presently, there exists hundreds of flora and fauna species in a variety of threatened categories, even though the specialists haven’t yet reached a consensus in this matter. Moreover, many wild relatives of domestic species are in an uncertain position related to its state of conservation.
Finally, the situation of key areas with regard to the preservation of in situ genetic resources is not very well known and not considered in politics and lawmaking. At the present time, the most important conservation instrument existing, is the Sistema Nacionál de Areas Protegidas (SNAP) (National System of Protected Areas), whose central goal is the strategic conservation of representative samples of the biodiversity components, as much in quantity (geometric area) as in quality (conservation status).
There are dozens of well protected areas created partly in a formal and legal manner and partly with an uncertain status. 21 areas form the SNAP, 17 of which are managed by and linked to more than 60 municipalities. These protected areas occupy a total of more than 175.000 square kilometers, the equivalent of 17% of the surface area of .
There are ecosystems well represented in the SNAP; for instance, the humid mountain forests of the Yungas, the humis forests of the Sub-Andean Belt and the ecosystems of the
Chaco . Nevertheless, there are still ecosystems absent from SNAP that require special protection.
Many protected areas were created in an arbitrary manner and do not preserve relevant biological values that should be re-categorized. On the other hand, many areas important for conservation like those that still contain centers of locally aggregated biodiversity with high levels of endemism are found in areas just outside of protected districts and adjacent to zones of dense human population that represent significant anthropological pressure.
In spite of the notable effort made to conserve broad ecosystems of national interest, at this time SNAP has not been embellished with areas of importance from the departmental or the municipal level. Therefore the necessity exists to develop alternate mechanisms that will allow the protection of areas of local interest, within SNAP and without.
Even though a special program exists for protected areas, at present, it is structurally debilitated in relation to other avenues of conservation and natural resource management. They have scarcely taken into account factors like: the rescue and protection of time-honored knowledge regarding the supervision of natural assets; the use of adequate agricultural technology; and the poverty conditions of local populations who exercise the foremost stress upon those assets in order to satisfy their basic human needs. Consequently, it is well recognized that the most significant town councils of the 14 primary protected regions present a measure of population increase greater than the national growth rate and highly above the rate of increase in rural zones.
One strategic component in protected areas is the prospect of providing environmental services along with the sustainable use of a wide variety of biological resources in the framework of categorization and zoning. Thus, it is imperative to strengthen the means for social participation, such as with administrative committees that are presently functioning with some limitations and deficiencies.
Another issue limiting the satisfactory use of broad biological resources is related to the insufficient conservation instruments that are not well articulated within the Territorial Action Plan and the System of National Planning in general. This dilemma does not allow the positioning of sectors for strategic planning with the basis for recommending potential use of the land and the establishment of regulations for the satisfactory employment of natural resources. What is needed is a plan for the use of national, departmental, municipal and communal land that sufficiently contemplates the management of the biodiversity.
On the other hand, germplasm banks, created with the object of salvaging species of origin, as well as those of domesticated, original species of Bolivia, that have been found to be susceptible to suffering genetic erosion; and designed to complement conservation actions in situ; present problems tied to the lack of legal definitions of rights that the organizations have over genetic reserves are: the lack of sufficient economic resources that would assure long term preservation; and the dependency upon external sources necessary for maintenance.
The collections of plant and animal life that are principally responsible for the national biodiversity inventory also have management problems that are specifically tied to the lack of infrastructure and personal training as well as the absence of sustainable political financing, G. M., Oliveira and P.L. Ibisch) 2003, National Strategy for Biodiversity of Bolivia. Executive Summary, Editorial: FAN,
Santa Cruz . (ISBN 99905-66-20-8).
Text, maps and photos extracted from Ministry of Sustainable Development and Planning (editors:
Merida , G. M., Oliveira and P.L. Ibisch) 2003, National Strategy for Biodiversity of Bolivia. Executive Summary, Editorial: FAN.