Project Background


Biological resources or biodiversity are crucial for the development of poor countries in the tropics. Native plants and animals are particularly important to peasant and indigenous populations in rural areas; these people often depend directly on harvesting local species for their daily needs such as energy (fire-wood), food, medicine, and construction material. Peasants and indigenous groups are often the first to suffer from environmental degradation such as deforestation that may have extensive negative impacts. Sustainable management of biological resources may therefore contribute significantly to economic development and improved livelihoods for rural people, but currently the biodiversity of poor tropical countries are often under severe stress or even in danger of irreplaceable loss. This situation partly reflects complex, interacting economic, political and socio-economic factors, but lack of basic knowledge and lack of access to existing knowledge may be the most serious impediment to sustainable resource use and management. Most tropical plants and animals and their interactions with the environment are poorly known, and in many cases their actual and potential economic values and potential management have not been evaluated. Many developing countries suffer from poor access to existing printed and electronic information concerning their own biodiversity resources. These countries have poor contacts to the international scientific community and they have few trained people who can interpret and evaluate information. Finally, their facilities to generate new knowledge are often poorly developed, and it is therefore difficult to promote a development that takes advantage of existing knowledge.

         The overall objective af this project is to facilitate that local flora and fauna may persist and support economic development and the well-being in Bolivia and Ecuador. The Andean region is extremely rich in biological resources, but at the same time and compared to other tropical areas it is poorly known. Each of the two countries have close to 20.000 species of plants, and larger numbers of fungi and animals, and their diversity of ecosystems range from tropical rain forests to high Andean desert vegetation. Their natural resources suffer from unsustainable use-practices, but still extensive expanses of intact ecosystems remain which makes it feasible to preserve and manage much of their original biodiversity. High diversity areas are often populated with indigenous people, and continued degradation will impoverish these people not only economically but also culturally, and may eliminate traditional knowledge and experience that may serve as an example for sustainable use of natural resources.

         Basic research that is needed to take advantage of the two countries’ biodiversity began only decades ago. The biodiversity of Ecuador is better known than that of Bolivia, not least because of 30 years research collaboration between herbaria in Quito and in Denmark. This collaboration grew from 1988 within the framework of an Enreca-project permitting the building of research capacity in Quito and from 1993 also in Loja, Ecuador. It is the aim to use the experience gained in the Ecuadorian Enreca-project, to assist in the building of capacity in biodiversity research and management at the Instituto de Ecología in Bolivia and to establish networks with other tropical Andean countries such as Colombia and Peru and certain Central American countries, such as Nicaragua. The present proposal thus is a 2nd generation Enreca-project creating a close south-south collaboration between Bolivia and Ecuador and networking in the tropical Andean region, in which the University of Aarhus, and other Danish research institutes (Zoological Museum at the University of Copenhagen, Royal Danish School of Pharmacy, Royal Danish Veterinary and Agricultural University) will support and facilitate the transfer of capacity related to student and staff training, natural resource management, biodiversity reference collection management, floristic and faunal inventories, and other forms of biodiversity research

         The project is built around research concerning economically important species, and it produces inventories of useful species, and studies of their potential for exploitation and sustainable management, as well as their ecology, variation and distribution. A part of this research is to provide expertise in natural substance chemistry enabling scientists from the two countries to use the economic potential of their biodiversity in a sustainable way. A transversal priority is to ensure Bolivia and Ecuador access to international printed and electronic biodiversity information, particularly linking the participating institutions with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF; and the Andinonet initiative recently established in the region, as well as to the Regional Strategy of Biodiversity Conservation. Computer equipment and networking is updated, and staff and students are trained in using databases and other modern IT technology in research concerning biodiversity and natural resources management. The project intends to demonstrate that developing countries can participate in and benefit from global networking projects such as the GBIF-initiative, Andinonet, and the projects’ ambition is to serve as a model for an equal and active collaboration between industrialized and developing countries in biodiversity research and informatics.





Dissemination  Strategy


This project intends to improve the participating institutions capacity to produce and capture relevant biodiversity related information, process it and make it available to a broad range of users in the private and public sector.


The intended users include local communities of peasants and indigenous people who wish to use plant and animal species of their surroundings in a sustainable way, government authorities who protect and manage of natural biological resources, local industries that produce plant or animal-derived products such as human or veterinary medicines, local NGO’s who carry out community projects with biodiversity components, forestry projects that need exact identification of their tree species to access biological information, etc.


The trained biodiversity workers and researchers will be intermediaries between those who use and those who produce and manage biodiversity information.


The expected long term outcome is that the involved institutions will have the capacity to contribute to a wiser use of their countries' biological resources and that these resources will be protected from destruction and made available to poor rural populations as well as industries that contribute to the economic development of the countries.


Results will be disseminated via the national and international journals, conference presentations, lectures, workshops, etc. Because traditional biodiversity documentation is often difficult to use by non-specialists or even for professionals from related disciplines (e.g., botanical identification work for zoologists or vice versa), this project will emphasize user-friendly documentation of biodiversity, such as publicly accessible internet based web-pages photo-recording the identification characteristics of particular groups of plants and animals, as well as relevant information concerning uses, management, etc. The project will initially elaborate documentation related to economically important species, but it is envisioned that eventually other parts of the native flora and much of the fauna may be included.





Organisation and financial management


The project is managed principally by the Danish Research Institution, at the University of Aarhus. Funds transferred from Danida enter an account of the University of Aarhus and is managed according to established rules for state institutions including monitoring of the accounts by the government's auditors ("Rigsrevisionen"). Funds for the partner institutions are transferred in lump sums and the partner institutions are responsible for submitting accounts that have been audited locally. The project director is professor Henrik Balslev. To manage the project he has the help of research associate Lars Peter Kvist. The activities at the partner institutions are managed by the project managers, Dr. Monica Moraes, Dr. Hugo Navarette, and MSc Zhoffre Aguirre. They are responsible for the management of the funds transferred to them, and also for the scientific and educational activities involved at each of the partner institutions.


A Steering Committee oversees the project, review yearly plans for upcoming activities and yearly reports of past activities for each of the involved institutions. The Steering Committee reports its approval of, or concerns about, these plans and  reports to the project director, professor Henrik Balslev, who is responsible to the funding agency, Danida.