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Plant Diversity and Conservation in Bolivia

Scientific support for the identification and management of conservation priorities for Bolivian plant diversity


William Milliken, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Jardín de Cactáceas de Bolivia, Pulquina: a community conservation project supported by Kew

Andean dry valleys

Following recommendations made in a Darwin Initiative project (2002-5) involving Oxford University, Kew and four Bolivian herbaria headed by the Bolivian National Herbarium (LPB), activities were developed in 2006 in four areas identified as important for conservation within the Inter-Andean valley system:
• Parque Nacional Torotoro
• Area Natural de Manejo Integrado (ANMI) El Palmar
• Parque Arqueologico, El Fuerte, Samaipata
• The area of Cerro Chataquila and Cerro Obispo near Sucre

Work included field collecting, photography and ecological and ethnographic studies, and production and distribution of information leaflets for ecotourists. The leaflets were designed to be colourful and informative and to show plants that can be found along the main tourist paths. Species were selected partly because they were conspicuous features of the area and partly because of their conservation importance. All four leaflets carry a conservation message. An educational poster was produced for the Torotoro Park and approximately 1,000 herbarium specimens were collected in the course of inventory work at the four sites, including a number of new species.

In addition, awareness of the importance of biodiversity in these areas was raised through a series of workshops involving park managers, local communities and ecotourism managers, and Bolivian botanists were given training in Cactaceae and Compositae identification and collecting methods by specialist Kew taxonomists.

Cactus conservation

The Comarapa region, in the Department of Santa Cruz, supports a high diversity of endemic cactus species which form a significant component of the local dry forest vegetation. The Municipality of Comarapa has developed a local conservation initiative that includes the establishment of a Municipal Reserve in an area of relatively undisturbed vegetation alongside the Rio Misque, and a small botanic garden (Jardín de Cactáceas de Bolívia) in the village of Pulquina.

Kew, in collaboration with the Museu de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado, worked between 2006 and 2009 with local partners in the following areas of activity:
• Vegetation survey and inventory of proposed conservation area and cactus garden;
• Training local personnel in cactus propagation techniques;
• Ex-situ and in-situ conservation of local cactus species;
• Production of education and dissemination materials;
• Material support for development of facilities and equipment in the cactus garden.

The principal output from the project was the vegetation survey and inventory report: a conservation assessment produced in support of the development of a management plan for the reserve. In addition, a poster was produced and distributed to raise local awareness of the importance of the region's plant diversity, of the need for its conservation, and of the existence of the reserve.

Cerrados of Bolivia

Between 2007 and 2011 Kew was a partner in Conservation of the Cerrados of Eastern Bolivia, a collaborative project led by Oxford University and supported by the Darwin Initiative, identifying important plant species, habitats and areas within the cerrado biome of the Chiquitania region.

Bolivian Amazon

In 2010 Kew took part in a scoping visit, jointly with representatives of Bolivian partner institutions, to Bení and Pando Departments in the Bolivian Amazon. This included vegetation research, botanical collecting, and discussion of conservation priorities with local stakeholders. As a result, a collaborative project proposal has been developed integrating baseline forest biodiversity and ecosystem service research, development of sustainable non-timber forest product markets, and establishment of locally adapted agroforestry systems.

Taxonomic research

Kew has continued to support plant science and conservation in Bolivia through taxonomic research and publication on important plant groups including the Acanthaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Bignoniaceae, Compositae (see also Compositae of Bolivia), Iridaceae, Labiatae, Leguminosae and Verbenaceae.

Selected publications since 2006

  • Goyder, D. J. (2008). Funastrum rupicola (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae), a new species from Bolivia. Kew Bull. 63: 331 – 333.
  • Hind, D. J. N. (2008)[Jan. 2009]. New combinations amongst Bolivian Compositae. Kew Bull. 63(3): 515–516.
  • Hind, D. J. N. (2010). Vernonia longicuspis (Compositae: Vernonieae), a new combination from Bolivia. Kew Bull. 65(2): 349–350.
  • Hind, D. J. N. (2011). An annotated preliminary checklist of the Compositae of Bolivia. Vers. 2. pp. 750. [See for the web version and for the PDF file of the checklist]
  • Mendoza, M., Klitgård, B. B., Milliken, W., Garvizu, M., Muñoz, M., Zappi, D. & Biggs, N. (2009). Vegetación del Jardín de Cactáceas de Bolivia. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Renvoize, S. A. (2006). Sorghastrum crassum – a new grass species from Bolivia. Kew Bull. 61: 281 – 283.
  • Rico Arce, M. L. (2006). Acacia polyphylla var. rhytidocarpa (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae), un nuevo taxon de Bolivia and Brazil. Anales Jard. Bot. Madrid 63: 27 – 30.
  • Wood, J. R. I. (2007). The Salvias (Lamiaceae) of Bolivia. Kew Bull. 62: 177 – 222.
  • Wood, J. R. I. (2008). A revision of Tecoma Juss. (Bignoniaceae) in Bolivia. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 156: 143 – 172.

Project partners and collaborators

Herbario Nacional de Bolivia (LPB), La Paz
Herbario Martín Cárdenas (BOLV), Cochabamba
Herbario del Museo Noel Kempff Mercado (USZ), Santa Cruz
Herbario, Universidad San Francisco Xavier (HSB), Sucre
Oxford University

Project funders

Rio Tinto Partnership.
Bentham-Moxon Trust.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.