Land Use Zoning Based on a World Soils and Terrain Digital Database Study to Conserve the Brazil-Nut Forests in Bolivia's Amazonia
Botanists have long recognized the western Amazon forests as the area of origin of Brazil-nut (Bertholletia excelsa) and many other tree-crop species. As increasingly large areas of these forests in Bolivia’s Amazonian Pando Department were being destroyed in the early 1990s for cattle ranching, a land resource study following the World Soils and Terrain Digital Database approach was commissioned to provide a basis for zoning the region to conserve the Brazil-nut forests. It was found that the soils of the Pando have low fertility levels and would be incapable of supporting forests were it not for the nutrient-cycling phenomenon. This finding was supported by the study of many representative soil profiles. Local experience confirmed that the forests of the region regenerate very slowly following clearing. The soils are patently unsuitable for agricultural “colonization”. Complementary forest inventory studies confirmed that the forests often have very high concentrations of Brazil-nut trees and could support a more intensive extractive activity. In order to arrest the destruction of the native forests, a Regional Land Use Zoning map was drawn up in consultation with other specialists and local people. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the latter to date, and irresponsible forest clearing continues at an ever-accelerating pace. In view of this situation, the authors would suggest that serious thought should be given to the creation a World Heritage Area with international finance sought for the conservation of representative areas of these unique Brazil- nut forests.