The Pampas del Heath are large natural grasslands along the Heath River in Bolivia and Peru. These are among the last well-conserved Amazonian savannas, as virtually all others have been altered by ranching or agriculture. Our work in the Bolivian Pampas del Heath aims to improve our understanding of how Amazon savannas function and what is needed for their conservation. Although two-thirds of Bolivia’s Pampas are located inside Madidi National Park, they remain vulnerable. A road planned to connect La Paz to Cobija will open the area to settlement and potentially explosive habitat destruction. Rare species like the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) would disappear without the shelter provided by these pampas.
Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ACA scientists have conducted intensive field research in the Pampas del Heath since 2004 to document the biodiversity and understand the ecology of this unique Amazonian habitat. Our team began by carrying out the most intensive inventory to date of the savannas’ vascular plants, mammals, and birds. We’ve also been monitoring population trends of key species and training Bolivian park guards to carry on the work over the long run.
ACA works side by side with the Bolivian park service to strengthen existing conservation efforts in Madidi National Park. We’re also looking for ways to improve connectivity between Madidi and the Manuripi Heath Nature Reserve by promoting an ecological corridor and building cooperation between the parks. In all of this work we seek out local partners—particularly indigenous communities and farmers—to promote sustainable use of the savannas and mitigate encroaching impacts.
Outside Madidi National Park, ACA is exploring opportunities to protect the Pampas del Heath by engaging local stakeholders, such as Tacana indigenous communities and local municipal governments. Since the Tacana are guardians of 847,306 acres of Amazonian savanna, it is important that they have the support and training they need to defend this land. ACA-Bolivia aims to generate practical conservation tools that allow Tacana communities to use their resources in a sustainable manner compatible with economic needs. For example, Brazil nut experts from ACCA Peru have been sharing techniques for managing and harvesting the Brazil nut resources in the Tacana territory in Northern La Paz. ACA-Bolivia continues to develop local relationships and seeks to expand our work with the Tacana community and the preservation of the biodiversity in the region.
Maned wolf. Photo: Louise Emmons
Marsh deer. Photo: Javier Villegas
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