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Plant Diversity and Conservation in Bolivia

Scientific support for the identification and management of conservation priorities for Bolivian plant diversity
Rolman Velarde, the project’s forest engineer and Vitalia, outreach communicator, standing between two rows of Inga seedlings at the Motacusal community agroforestry trial in December 2014 (left), and shortly after planting nine months earlier (right).


The Bolivian Department of Pando covers an area of 6.4 million hectares of which 95% is still under forest.  The forests in Pando are rich in biodiversity: many species occurring there are rare elsewhere in the Amazon or endemic to Bolivia, and many of the species assemblages are found nowhere else in Bolivia (one of the world’s 'megadiverse' countries).

Immigration to the Bolivian Amazon, driven by economic, political and environmental factors, has placed increasing pressure on Pando's forests. These support a large forest-dependent population (40% of the total), are vital providers of ecosystem services and constitute important buffers for the eastern Andean catchments from predicted impacts of climate change. Forest loss will reduce Bolivia’s ability to meet its CBD obligations and increase vulnerability to climate change among the poor.

Mitigating these threats demands sustainable practices that reduce forest conversion, coupled with skills and knowledge of forest values for addressing poverty. Priorities identified by Bolivia's Integrated Forest Management Plan (BAP) and Constitution include: diversification of forest-based incomes, adoption of sustainable forest management systems, protection and conservation of soils, and strategic importance of Amazon watershed for biodiversity and environmental services.

The Forest Futures project

Kew is working on a three-year project in the Bolivian Pando, in collaboration with local partners and forest communities, to develop science-based approaches to sustainable management of forest resources that reduce incentives for deforestation while improving livelihoods.  This applied programme is supported by baseline research into the plant diversity, species composition and biomass of the forest, in turn providing resources for a programme of education and communication, raising stakeholder awareness of the importance of forest biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides.

Key objectives

  • Agroforestry adapted to regional socio-economic context through the introduction and enhancement of systems using fast growing leguminous Inga trees, contributing directly to poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation;
  • Increased capacity for community-based fruit tree production, contributing directly to local livelihoods and the establishment of successful agroforest;
  • Scientific knowledge of forest plant diversity and ecosystem services increased in the Pando through the establishment, inventory and measurement of permanent forest plots;
  • Diversification of non-timber forest product (NTFP) resource collection and marketing, contributing directly to local livelihoods;
  • Awareness of economic incentives for sustainable forest management and ecosystem service values increased at a range of decision-making levels, from community to governmental.

Project partners and collaborators

Herencia, Cobija
Museo Noel Kempff Mercado (USZ), Santa Cruz

Project funders

Darwin Initiative
Innocent Foundation
Andrew Sabin Family Foundation
William A Cadbury Charitable Trust
British Ecological Society
Foundation and Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew