Useful woody species in seasonal dry Andean Tucumano-Boliviano forests

Master Thesis 

During recent decades, there has been much concern regarding the destruction of the tropical humid forests. There has been less focus on the plight of the seasonal dry tropical forest, yet these are even more threatened than the rain forests. Seasonal dry forests are easily cut and burned during the dry months of the year, and often grow at soils relatively well suited for agriculture. Seasonal forests are extensive in south-eastern Bolivia, ranging from the Andean slopes eastwards and into Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.


TUCUMANO-BOLIVIANO FORESTS — The seasonal forests found at the Andean slopes through the Bolivian departments Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Tarija down to northern Argentina are known as “Tucumano-Boliviano” forests. They are characterized by a distinct flora and fauna including many endemic species. Altitudes range from 800 m to nearly 4000 m and average annual temperatures vary with altitude from near tropical to cold temperate. The annual precipitation varies from 700 mm to 2000 mm, with the bulk of the precipitation falling from November through March, while June and July are very dry.


"SERRANIA DE LAS CHAPEADAS" — Few fragments of Tucumano-Boliviano forests remain today. The most well-preserved and extensive of these is the “íde las Chapeadas” area in Chuquisaca, where 2.000 km2 of relatively undisturbed forests persist. Even though there are hardly any roads in this area, up to 3.000 immigrants from the highlands, mostly Quechua speaking, have settled in the “Serranía.” The main economic activities of the settlers are the following:

• Subsistence agriculture primarily at alluvial soils in valley bottoms

• Mixed husbandry, mainly cattle and goats who forage in the forests

• Selective extraction of timber, particularly of the genera Cedrela and Juglans.


OBJECTIVES  The forests of the “Serranía de las Chapeadas” have, with the support of the Danish Agency for Development (DANIDA), been proposed as a new departmental protected area. The present project will provide base-line data facilitating the elaboration of management plans for communities within or near the envisioned protected area. More specifically, the focus will be the use and management of woody species (trees and lianas):

The uses of trees and lianas will be surveyed. Patterns of uses and knowledge will be correlated with socio-economic variables Useful trees and lianas will be inventoried in different vegetation types


METHODS  Uses of woody plants will be recorded and quantified applying a variation of open-ended, semi-structured and structured interview techniques. Individual informants will be selected using stratified random sampling based on gender, age classes, social classes and ethnic groups.

- Additional participatory techniques, e.g. preference ranking, group interviews, and community workshops, will validate data gathered through interviews.

- All woody plants exceeding 5 cm in Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), will be inventoried in 0.1 hectare large plots located at different elevations, and both in primary forest and in regrowth vegetation at abandoned agricultural land.

- Plant specimens collected will be identified at local Bolivian herbaria, and difficult specimens will be sent to the relevant specialists abroad.


EXPECTED RESULTS — This project intends to produce publications describing the economic botany, and ecology of woody plants in the “Serranía de las Chapeadas” area. In addition, popular contributions will be designed to institutions, organizations and individuals involved in the development of the specific project area, as well as other areas with Tucumano-Boliviano forests in Bolivia or adjacent Argentina. These will include guidelines for the management of the economically most valuable woody species, and an illustrated identification guide to the common trees found in Tucumano-Boliviano forests.


Project participant Alain Carretero M., supervised by Henrik Balslev, Finn Borchsenius & Mónica Moraes