The Amazon Biome has an extension of 6.7 million km2 and includes the world’s largest river in terms of volume, the Amazon River. The Amazon has its origin in the Andes Mountains and runs through the southern hemisphere of the continent before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon Biome is shared between Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela, plus the French Overseas Territory of Guiana, and has a population of more than 33 million inhabitants, of which 5% is indigenous, belonging to 350 different ethnic groups, 60 of which little is known about.
In Bolivia, the Amazon extends through the departments of Pando, Beni, Northern La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz –excluding the Dry Chiquitano Forest– and occupies 24% of the country, corresponding to 95% of the Upper Madeira River Basin, the Amazon River’s main tributary.
1. Amazon richness
The forests in this region are among the richest on Earth from a biodiversity point of view. The Southwest Amazon is one of the last areas with extensive forests which provide habitats for species such as jaguars and harpy eagles. In addition, it has the greatest diversity on Earth in terms of vascular plants, freshwater fish, birds and butterflies, among others. These forests are also inhabited by numerous indigenous communities, whose culture and development depend on the natural resources that surround them.
2. Greatest threats
One of the greatest threats faced by the Amazon is increased pressure on its natural resources due to migration and expansion of the agricultural frontier leading to deforestation and change in land use for crops and pasturelands, at the expense of forests and the environment.
A network of roads that is permanently expanding, yet without adequate planning or mitigation measures, is invading the Amazon forests and allowing for the extraction of wood, minerals, oil and gas. There is growing deforestation and forest fires along these roads, which threaten local inhabitants, wildlife and their habitats.
Likewise, the construction of large hydroelectric dams without sufficient mitigation measures and considerations regarding environmental, social and economic sustainability, are a threat to the region’s harmonious development.
3. WWF in the Bolivian Amazon
In Bolivia, WWF has been working in the Amazon since 1999. This Biome is one of our priority regions worldwide, at the heart of our collective conservation agenda. WWF Bolivia’s main objective in the Amazon is the conservation of large blocks of forests, which are representative of the Amazon’s biodiversity, contributing to the improvement of livelihoods among the local population in the medium to long term.
Our programme in the Bolivian Amazon focuses on four lines of action:
- Protected areas. Via institutional strengthening with those directly responsible for their administration, and supporting the integral management of protected areas in the Bolivian Amazon, specifically the Iténez and Manuripi protected areas (PAs). Support is also being provided in the development of financial sustainability strategies for the two aforementioned areas, as well as for the Bruno Racua PA in the Department of Pando and the Tiquipaya PA in Cochabamba.
- Sustainable management of natural resources with local communities. Through the support of conservation and sustainable production activities, such as fish and caiman management systems, support for ecotourism initiatives, sound forest management (timber and non timber products), agricultural production, recovery of degraded soils, and strengthening the capacity of local stakeholders for the implementation of these activities within protected areas.
- Sustainable infrastructure. Supporting research and dissemination of technical information regarding the impacts that might be generated in Bolivia as a result of the construction of dams on the Madeira River in Brazil. These efforts aim to provide input for stakeholders to be able to influence decision makers, minimize negative impacts and promote the development of sustainable energy infrastructure in the Bolivian Amazon.
- Species. Systematizing information and preserving habitats for species such as the Bolivian river dolphin (Inia boliviensis), the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), river turtles (Podocnemis expansa and P. unifilis), and large catfish, as well as important plant formations.