A new paper published in the journal Regional Environmental Change explores new challenges being faced by indigenous pastoral communities in the Andes using both satellite data and traditional ecological knowledge. MRI SLC member Elizabeth Jimenez Zamora is among the authors. 

In the Andes, indigenous pastoral communities are confronting new challenges in managing mountain peatland pastures, locally called bofedales. Assessing land cover change using satellite images, vegetation survey, and local knowledge (i.e., traditional ecological knowledge) reveals the multi-faceted socio-ecological dimensions of bofedal change in Sajama National Park (PNS), Bolivia.

This paper present the results of focus groups held in 2016 and 2017 to learn about local knowledge of bofedales in five Aymara communities in PNS. Land cover maps, created from Landsat satellite imagery, provided a baseline reference of the decadal change of bofedales (1986, 1996, 2006, and 2016) and were field verified with vegetation sampling.

At the park level, the land cover maps show a reduction of healthy bofedales (i.e., Juncaceae dominated peatland) cover from 33.8 km2 in 1986 to 21.7 km2 in 2016, and an increase in dry mixed grasses (e.g., Poaceae dominated land cover) from 5.1 km2 (1986) to 20.3 km2 (2016). Locals identify climate change, lack of irrigation, difficulty in water access, and loss of communal water management practices as key bofedal management challenges. Local improvement of bofedales was found in one community due to community-based irrigation efforts.

Bridging knowledge of mountain land cover change helps to articulate the socio-ecological dimensions that influence local decision-making regarding bofedal management, and consideration of local actions that may be strengthened to support the sustainability of bofedales for local livelihoods in the context of climate change in the Andes.

CITATION: Yager, K. et al. 'Socio-Ecological Dimensions of Andean Pastoral Landscape Change: Bridging Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Satellite Image Analysis in Sajama National Park, Bolivia.' Regional Environmental Change  (2019):  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-019-01466-y 

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