Deforestation scenarios for the Bolivian lowlands

Our latest publication in the journal of Environmental Research is title: “Deforestation scenarios for the Bolivian lowlands”. Please see below the abstract and here is the link to the full article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115301092

boliviaAbstract

Tropical forests in South America play a key role in the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon sinks, biodiversity conservation, and global climate regulation. In previous decades, Bolivian forests have mainly been deforested by the expansion of agricultural frontier development, driven by the growing demands for beef and other productions. In the mid-2000s the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party rose to power in Bolivia with the promise of promoting an alternative development model that would respect the environment. The party passed the world’s first laws granting rights to the environment, which they termed Mother Earth (Law No. 300 of 2012), and proposed an innovative framework that was expected to develop radical new conservation policies. The MAS conservationist discourse, policies, and productive practices, however, have since been in permanent tension. The government continues to guarantee food production through neo-extractivist methods by promoting the notion to expand agriculture from 3 to 13 million ha, risking the tropical forests and their ecosystem services. These actions raise major environmental and social concerns, as the potential impacts of such interventions are still unknown. The objective of this study is to explore an innovative land use modeling approach to simulate how the growing demand for land could affect future deforestation trends in Bolivia. We use the LuccME framework to create a spatially-explicit land cover change model and run it under three different deforestation scenarios, spanning from the present–2050. In the Sustainability scenario, deforestation reaches 17,703,786 ha, notably in previously deforested or degraded areas, while leaving forest extensions intact. In the Middle of the road scenario, deforestation and degradation move toward new or paved roads spreading across 25,698,327 ha in 2050, while intact forests are located in Protected Areas (PAs). In theFragmentation scenario, deforestation expands to almost all Bolivian lowlands reaching 37,944,434 ha and leaves small forest patches in a few PAs. These deforestation scenarios are not meant to predict the future but to show how current and future decisions carried out by the neo-extractivist practices of MAS government could affect deforestation and carbon emission trends. In this perspective, recognizing land use systems as open and dynamic systems is a central challenge in designing efficient land use policies and managing a transition towards sustainable land use.

Keywords

  • Deforestation scenarios;
  • Amazon forest;
  • Land cover change (LCC) model;
  • LuccME
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