New law puts Bolivian biodiversity hotspot on road to deforestation.

23 Jan 2018

In August 2017, the Bolivian government passed a contentious law downgrading the legal protection of the Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS, for its Spanish acronym), the ancestral homeland of four lowland indigenous groups and one of Bolivia's most iconic protected areas. Due to its strategic position straddling the Andes and Amazonia, TIPNIS represents not only a key biodiversity hotspot in Bolivia, but one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, harboring exceptional levels of endemism and globally important populations of megafauna, as well as protecting substantial topographic complexity likely to support both wildlife migration and species range shifts in response to climate change [1]. The new law, set to authorize the construction of a deeply-contested road through the core of the park, has reopened one of the highest profile socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America. Roads in tropical forests often lead to habitat conversion, and indeed within TIPNIS more than 58% of deforestation is concentrated 5 km or less away from existing roads. It, therefore, seems very likely that the planned road will magnify the current scale and pace of deforestation in TIPNIS, underscoring the urgent need for revisiting the road plans.