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Co-developing a vision for sustainable development in the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivia

This 18-month project employs NatCap's well-tested participatory process to build support for a more sustainable development pathway by co-producing knowledge of ecosystem services and the benefits they bring to communities in collaboration with scientists, policy experts, and leaders in the Llanos de Moxos region in Beni, Bolivia. Collaborators: Center for Research in Biodiversity and the Environment at the Autonomous University of Beni, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bolivia, FaunAgua, Armonía, Department for Archaeology of the Americas at the University of Bonn. Funding provided by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Project Partners include CIBIOMA-UAB (Center for Research in Biodiversity and Environment at the Autonomous University of Beni), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Armonía, FaunAgua, Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn.


The Challenge

The Llanos de Moxos is a tropical savanna spanning 120,000 km2, making it the largest in the Amazon basin, and is composed of a complex wetland with mostly flooded savannas and forests. The wetland also houses important endemic species such as the Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) and Titi monkeys (Plecturocebus modestus, P. olallae). The region has the most significant human-made archeological sites in the entire Amazon basin dating back 10,000 years. Given its unique ecological and historical features, the Llanos de Mojos is a named UNESCO RAMSAR site.

The main threats to the Llanos de Mojos are expansion of the agricultural frontier, namely cattle ranching and industrial agriculture, primarily through soy production. The recently approved Land Use Plan (PLUS in its Spanish acronym) creates incentives to overvalue extractive activities – such as intensive agriculture, ranching, and mining – and undervalue the benefits and services provided by intact and functioning freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems – such as water flow regulation, fisheries, sustainable ranching, and ecotourism. In addition, there is little regard in the PLUS for the rich and unique cultural and archeological history in the region.

A group of national and local organizations focused on the region’s conservation and sustainable development are keen to develop a different vision for the region’s future and change how the PLUS is implemented on the ground. However, with limited local capacity, difficult accessibility, poorly available data, and stringent policies determined to expand an extractive development model, the region still faces many challenges to incorporating these alternative values into the land use planning process.

Using a Natural Capital Approach

We are engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders to promote a more inclusive growth model for the region, and to build local capacity for utilizing the best available science to show the benefits of this alternative model. We achieve this through co-developing (a) a set of scenarios and a common vision that demonstrates the potential for economic development that preserves the existing natural and cultural heritage while providing local livelihoods; and (b) a shared database of information on the natural assets, ecosystem services, and scenario results.

We use InVEST and other analytical tools to map and assess how wetlands, forests, and riverine vegetation contribute to water security and livelihoods, and how different scenarios of land use and management can impact these ecosystem services.