Spanning from the Andes in Peru to the savannahs of the Beni in Bolivia and through the rainforest in between, the Madidi-Tambopata landscape is a transboundary gem. The area covers approximately 11 million hectares, an are a larger than Cuba, and includes globally important carbon storing forests, one of the largest swaths of intact montane forest in the Tropical Andes, and two of the world’s most biologically diverse protected areas: the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. These territories provide crucial ecosystem services, including watershed protection and climate regulation, to the diverse communities that exist within this landscape, such as the Ese’eja and the Harakmbut indigenous tribes, tribes in voluntary isolation, and Quechua, Aymara, and mestizo communities recently settled from the Andes and the coast. It is estimated that around 12,000 species of vascular plants, 1,100 species of birds (that’s 11% of all bird species in the planet), and around 300 species of mammals exist in this area, and it is a crucial stronghold for species such as the scarlet macaw, jaguar, tapir, giant river otter, spider monkey, harpy eagle, and black caiman.
The Greater Madidi-Tambopata landscape is unfortunately under many threats—illegal logging and oil exploration have applied pressure on the environment for years. Additionally, the rise of gold mining, particularly informal, has caused an increase in pollution within the water systems, as well as forest destruction and degradation. The water systems are doubly threatened by the construction of dams and other infrastructure, which will only disrupt the seasonal floods and droughts that climate change is already impacting. Poor funding for the institutions in charge of governance and management of natural resources in the area have left many of these ecologically important places vulnerable. WCS works in this landscape envisioning its rich biological and cultural diversity, its mosaic of forests and savannahs, and its iconic species thriving from the high Andes to the Amazon lowlands through the active stewardship of the region’s local communities and government authorities. This goal is worked towards through technical support in local grassroots planning, promotion of alternative livelihoods, and sound scientific research on the connectivity of ecological entities and functions.
Top photo: Walter H. Wust