Chiquitano Dry Forests

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Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, Mato Grosso, Brazil.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

About the Area

The dry forests of Bolivia and Brazil are among the richest dry forest ecosystems in the world.

The plant and animal life of this ecoregion bears similarities to the species of the distant Caatinga, Misiones, and Tucumano forests. Most of the Chiquitano forest lies within the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with smaller patches extending into western Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Although without rainfall and leaves for certain parts of the year, these dry forests still contain an incredible abundance of life including many endemics. Flooding and fires are both common in this region, so many of these trees can withstand temporary flooding or have fire-resistant bark.

This forest takes its name from the indigenous groups, Chiquitanos, which inhabited them at the time of European colonization.

Size:
230,500 sq. km (89,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Central South America - Bolivia and Brazil

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
This unique forest shelters a critically endangered reptile, the broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris); an endangered bird, the black-and-tawny seedeater (Sporophila nigrofufa), and at least 3 mammals - the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). There are a further 3 birds, 1 reptile and 12 mammals listed as vulnerable.

Selected species include the barefaced currasow (Crax fasciolata), puma (Felis concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), and the lianas (Bignoniaceae spp.).

These forests are dominated by soto, curupau, cuchi, cuta, ajo-ajo, tajibo, and tuseque trees.

Still relatively unstudied, this ecoregion suggests several good candidates for endemic taxa. The Sunsas Ridge limestone caves are rich with bat colonies that have never been studied.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), South America.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Featured Species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH
Puma (Puma concolor) walking in "forest", Belize Zoo, Belize.
© WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH
A cat of many names, the puma (Felis concolor) is also known as the cougar, panther or mountain lion. The puma has a small, broad head with small rounded ears, a powerful body with long hind legs and tail, which is tipped with black. It weighs around 60-100 kg (150-230 lb). The 2-3 cubs are born with spotted coats which fade as they mature.

The male puma can often patrol areas in excess of 100 square miles, although these will overlap the territories of several females who maintain smaller ranges. The puma hunts alone, by day or night and will cache its food, if large enough, in dense undergrowth, returning to it over several days. In hunting the puma uses the strength of its powerful hind legs to lunge at its prey with single running jumps that can reach in excess of 12 m (40 ft). The puma makes many sounds, including an almost humanlike scream when courting, but it cannot roar.

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Threats
Pollution, wildlife exploitation, agricultural expansion, burning, and grazing together constitute major threats. Habitat degradation is also significant, partly due to the Paraguay-Parana Hidrovia Dam project and uncontrolled logging.

The third major threat is habitat fragmentation with improved and new access ways promoted by multinational energy companies (pipelines, power lines and electricity generation) and the transportation sector (roads, ports).

Read more:
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
Burning of woodland during the dry season to improve grazing for cattle. Pantanal, Brazil.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
WWF’s work
WWF has been working on forestry issues in Bolivia since 1993, when it began efforts in training and community forest management in the Amazon watershed. Between 2001 and 2004, the regional community forest project was launched from Bolivia for Latin America and the Caribbean. The aim of this project was to strengthen indigenous capacities in sustainable forest management in selected community forest operations that entail rational use and sustainability of forest resources, using as a guide the principles and criteria of the FSC certification (Forest Stewardship Council).

Currently WWF Bolivia has a Forestry Programme that promotes the strengthening of capacities for indigenous communities in forest management and their integration in the market through forest-industry links as well as responsible forestry trade through the creation of a preferential demand for legal wood forthcoming from forests that are well managed.

Geographically WWF's work regarding forest management is concentrated in the Southwest Amazon and Dry Chiquitano Forest, under the vision of preserving its biodiversity and productivity for current and future generations.

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