Deforestation has dramatically reduced the extent of tropical forests in Bolivia and in the world. Destruction of tropical forests accounts for 20% of all carbon emissions produced by human activity in addition to the loss of biodiversity, impacts on water supplies and health and reduced opportunities for socio-economic and cultural development.
A recent publication conducted by the Tacana Indigenous People's Council (CIPTA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS): "Deforestation scenarios in the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape", shows that the expansion of agriculture and forest conversion to pasture, are the main causes of forests loss, and its conservation depends essentially on local capacities of land management, in other words planning of current and potential land use, institutional strengthening and project implementation for sustainable management of natural resources.
The study focused on the area located along the road from San Buenaventura to Alto Madidi (north of Ixiamas) and where Madidi National Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management and the Tacana Indigenous Territory converge. GIS and spatial statistical analysis were used to analyse the correlation between geographical conditions and loss of forest cover during a historical period (2005-2010) as well as during a projection in the future to 2021. Determinant factors were also included in the analyses: land ownership, land management and improvement of road infrastructure, allowing the comparison of deforestation in areas with and without land management.
Three possible deforestation scenarios were modelled: 1) Base Scenario to 2021 in the absence of land management efforts, using historical deforestation rates (2005-2010) in the area outside of the Tacana Indigenous Territory 2) Improved Road Scenario to 2021, using historical deforestation rates (2005-2010) along the Yucumo-Rurrenabaque road and 3) Land Management Scenario to 2021 using historical deforestation rates (2005-2010) within the Tacana Indigenous Territory.
The results of the study reveal that the lowest percentage of deforestation, of only 0.5% per year, occurs within the Tacana Indigenous Territory, in a scenario with land management even in areas within the indigenous territory that are found along the road from San Buenaventura to Ixiamas. The highest rate of forest loss corresponded to the area along the road between Yucumo and Rurrenabaque, with 3.7% per year, while the strip between San Buenaventura and Alto Madidi, in areas of private property and of migrant farmers, presented a rate of 2.3%.
Using these historical deforestation rates, the study projected deforestation between 2010 and 2021. The scenario modelling concludes that Tacana land management will avoid forest loss over 230,842 hectares between 2010 and 2021. In addition, a spatial analysis of the areas that would be deforested in the absence of Tacana land management shows that it would avoid impacts on Madidi National Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management, along the foothills of the Andean piedmont. This protected area is essential for conservation of biodiversity and the headwaters of over a hundred streams that provide water to the entire Iturralde province. Moreover, impacts to Ixiamas Municipal Protected Area would be avoided, an are where you find the highest diversity of birds and plants in the world, and also one of the highest densities of jaguars.
Tacana land management also protects deforestation of connectivity corridors between Madidi protected area and the Tacana Indigenous Territory. These corridors are critical for maintaining wildlife populations, especially endangered species at the continental level with large spatial requirements, such as the jaguar (Panthera onca) and white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) as well as for the sustainability of subsistence hunting by indigenous communities.
Furthermore, deforestation would also be avoided in areas at risk of erosion on the last foothills of the Andes and along the course of main rivers and streams of the Iturralde province in areas susceptible to flooding.
The Tacana people have rights of tenure over their territory, granted by the Bolivian state, and have developed skills for internal regulation of land management and natural resources, that has helped to prevent overexploitation and destruction of the collectively owned forest, while allowing the development of various productive activities to ensure sustainable livelihoods of the indigenous communities.
This study proves that indigenous participation is critical for mitigating climate change through the reduction of emissions from deforestation. It also presents information on the value of the forest for the control of environmental risks and a baseline that will allow comparing over time the effectiveness of mitigation measures associated with the road project and the effectiveness of indigenous land management and protected areas as alternatives to ensure integral long-term management of the forest.