Nestled in the northwest corner of Bolivia and the Western Amazon, Bolivia’s Madidi National Park abuts Peru’s Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, stretching from Bolivia’s highest Andean peaks to its flooded lowland Amazon rainforests. One of the world’s most biologically diverse and majestic, yet least inhabited and explored regions, Madidi National Park teems with tens of thousands of documented species of insects, plants, fish, birds and mammals.
Our Andes-Amazon Initiative, which works to ensure the long-term ecological integrity and climatic function of the Amazon basin, has been supporting a scientific expedition through Bolivia’s Madidi National Park.
The expedition, Identidad Madidi, was “an idea that was four years in the making,” explains Rob Wallace, a Bolivia-based senior conservation scientist in the Latin America and Caribbean Program of Wildlife Conservation Society, our co-sponsor for the expedition: “to send a group of Bolivian scientists to investigate fourteen different habitats spanning 6,000 meters – from the Andes down to the Amazon – in what is the most biodiverse protected area on the planet.”
By increasing scientific knowledge about the majestic park’s ecosystems and trove of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and butterflies, the expedition is increasing the catalog of known species and the understanding of species distribution. Information from the expedition is creating a biodiversity baseline for monitoring the effects of a shifting climate, and connecting the country’s urban public with Madidi as a globally significant state treasure — all of which help secure long-term societal and financial support for the park to endure, long into the future, as a well-managed, resilient resource and national wonder for Bolivians. The study area covers 15 sites located in different ecological zones and altitudinal gradients, from the Andean puna, at more than 17,000 feet, to the savannas and forests of the Amazon, at 500 feet above sea level.
From the launch of the expedition through the end of 2016, Identidad Madidi biologists and guides from Bolivian civil society and government institutions have surveyed these park sites to register hundreds of new species records for vertebrates, butterflies and plants so far.
By the numbers
Through 2016, expedition participants have contributed more than 200 new vertebrates, more than 500 new butterfly and nearly 300 new plant records. Roughly half of the fish and six out of ten butterflies registered to date are new records for the park. Ten percent of amphibians, six percent of fish and four percent of plants registered on the field trips are candidate new species for science, with 20 vertebrates and more than 60 plants as new species candidates. This astonishing biodiversity is concentrated in a 1.9 million-hectare region—an area roughly the size of Massachusetts. By comparison, the entire North American continent can claim some 800 bird species, while Madidi alone can claim more than a thousand.
As the scientist-explorers have trekked across this two-decade-old national park, they have helped draw the attention of urban Bolivians to its wonders — ecological, cultural and historical.
Through social media, they have reached more than two million Bolivians, or nearly 20 percent of the national population, with 80,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 3,000 on Instagram. In the highland cities of La Paz and El Alto, expedition participants delivered talks to nearly 200 different schools, creating virtual conservation experiences for students with collected footage from wildlife camera traps, pictures, blogs and other digital materials.
By engaging local communities, schools, municipalities and social organizations, Identidad Madidi is making the new scientific discoveries more accessible and sharing the crucial importance of the park for biodiversity conservation and the well-being of Bolivia’s population, present and future.
Follow and learn more
Photo gallery: http://identidadmadidi.org/en-us/INFORMATIVE-RESOURCES/PHOTO-GALLERY.aspx
Expedition objectives: http://identidadmadidi.org/en-us/EXPEDITION/OBJECTIVES.aspx
Identidad Madidi was organized under the Bolivian National Biodiversity Network with support from the Ministry of the Environment and Water and the Vice Ministry of Science and Technology. Participants include national institutions and organizations such as the National Herbarium, Bolivian Fauna Collection, Institute of Ecology and Armonia, as well as WCS. Bolivia designated Madidi a National Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management in 1995.