Land cover change in the Bolivian Amazon and its implications for REDD+ and endemic biodiversity
Tropical deforestation is a major contributor to green house gas emissions in developing countries. Incentive mechanisms, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), are currently being considered as a possible emissions reduction and offset solution. Although REDD has expanded its scope to include co-benefits such as sustainable management of forests and biodiversity conservation (known as REDD+), current carbon-base methodologies do not specifically target projects for the parallel protection of these co-benefits. This study demonstrates the incorporation of both carbon and biodiversity benefits within REDD+ in the Bolivian Amazon, through the analysis of land cover change and future change scenario modeling to the year 2050. Current protected areas within the Bolivian Amazon were evaluated for REDD+ project potential by identifying concordant patterns of carbon content, species biodiversity and deforestation vulnerability. Biodiversity-based versus carbon-based protection schemes were evaluated and protected areas were prioritized using irreplaceability-vulnerability plots. Deforestation projection scenarios to the year 2050 varied depending on the historical period analyzed, producing low, intermediate and high deforestation scenarios. All scenarios showed increasing deforestation pressure in the northern region of Bolivia along with high levels of biodiversity loss. Expected reductions in the carbon pool ranged from 8 to 48%, for the low and high demand scenarios respectively. Some protected areas presented large numbers of endemic species, high concentrations of carbon and high deforestation vulnerability, demonstrating the potential for win–win REDD+ projects in Bolivia.