Bolivian deforestation 101

FAN is one of the most credible environmental institutions in South America. El Diario publishes a saddening and cruel reality:

FAN-Bolivia reveals that loss of 1,820,000 hectares of forest, affects production, health and biological diversity in the country

Research puts Santa Cruz as the Department most affected, 76% having been deforested at the national level.

An investigation carried out by the Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza [FAN – Friends of the Nature Fund] identified that the deforestation that took place these past 10 years in Bolivia, is the main cause of forest loss, which resulted in higher greenhouse gas emissions, decrease in the production of water and food supply, reduction of biodiversity, and lost opportunities for sustainable use.

Bolivia lost 1,820,000 hectares (has) of forests by effects of deforestation in the period 2000-2010, being the Department of Santa Cruz who suffered more impact with 1,388,903 of has of the national total, equivalent to 76 percent (%), reveals the study “map of deforestation in the lowlands and Yungas of Bolivia 2000 – 2005 – 2010” of the Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN-Bolivia), according to the Erbol digital page report.

According to the work of the Department of Sciences of the FAN, which had access to Digital PIEB newspaper, the annual loss of forest between 2000 – 2005 was from 194,000 has, while between 2005 – 2010 increased to 205,000 has, which translates in terms of percentage growth of deforestation from 0.56 to 0.78 percent.

Deforestation, according to labor-type, was given mainly by the expansion of mechanized, followed by livestock farming and small-scale agriculture.

“The expansion of mechanized agriculture responds to the good access to the markets of export, fertile soil and rainfall conditions; whereas the small-scale farming and livestock would be related especially with the proximity to local markets”, says the study.

The researchers assessed deforestation from the biogeographical point, using Bolivia, as the biogeographic regions Brazilian-paranense of the Amazon, the Chaco and tropical Andes, since each of these regions is home to different types of forests.

Forests of lowlands and the Yungas of La Paz, occupying about 499,622 square kilometers (Km2), representing 45 percent of the country’s area.

The change of forest coverage was analyzed by calculating the normalized difference of fraction (NDFI) and classified by decision trees’ index. All analyses were performed using multispectral analysis software and module Image Procesing Tool, developed by the Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazonia of Brazil.

Validation of the product was made using high-resolution scenes for three zones such as the Amazon, Yungas and Chaco, and then data were processed by: a) total loss of forest, b) annual rate of forest and c) annual rate of deforestation.

There are different definitions of forest, but one that points out that forest is a piece of land with a forest coverage of at least 30 per cent, on a minimum area was used for this research between 0.05 to one hectare and a minimum height of trees between 3 to 5 meters. Under this definition some plant formations in the Chaco have not been classified as forest per se.

The research was coordinated by the specialist in plant ecology and conservation, Daniel Larrea. Participated in the work specialists in remote sensing and geographic information systems: Saúl Cuellar, Armando Rodríguez and Jhony Arroyo, as well as Sara Espinoza, an expert in geometry.


– 76 per cent of the loss of forest during the period 2000-2010 was concentrated in the Department of Santa Cruz, which affected to 1,388,903 hectares of forests, followed by Beni who reached 161,798 has, representing 8.9 per cent of the national total.

– The Department of Pando occupied third place with 98,185 hectares deforested, equivalent to 5.4 percent national forests, Cochabamba was followed with 72,751 has (4%), Tarija 47,566 ha (2.6%) and La Paz 45,925 ha (2.5%).

One of the worst triggers for deforestation is lack of property rights’ enforcement; uncertainty and anarchy need to be stopped. There are serious problem we face and current government certainly needs to do better!!

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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