Bolivia Establishes the World's Largest Protected Wetland

Under the Ramsar Convention, the Bolivian government designated three new wetlands to be a protected area in the ‘Llanos of Moxos’, a vast region in the Beni province that is now the largest protected wetland in the world.

Positive News explains that this protected area represents “the combined size of the Netherlands and Belgium.”

The Ramsar Convention is formally known as the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971). It is defined as:

[…] an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “wise use”, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.

Unlike the other global environmental conventions, Ramsar is not affiliated with the United Nations system of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

US blogger David Mixner celebrates the designation and also illustrates the news for North American audiences:

In great news for the world's environment, the world's largest wetland was created in Bolivia. The protected land will be the size of North Dakota! The area is close to the borders of Peru and Brazil and is essential for the health of the Amazon.

The international NGO World Wildlife Fund describes the area:

San Ignacio de Moxos. Photo shared on Flickr by Viaje al corazón de Bolivia (CC BY 2.0)

San Ignacio de Moxos. Photo shared on Flickr by Viaje al corazón de Bolivia (CC BY 2.0)

The Llanos de Moxos, located near the borders of Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, consists of tropical savannas with cyclical droughts and floods. These wetlands are especially prized for their rich natural diversity: 131 species of mammals have been identified to date, 568 different birds, 102 reptiles, 62 amphibians, 625 fish and at least 1,000 plant species. Several species – including the giant otter and the Bolivian river dolphin – have been identified as vulnerable, endangered or at critical risk of extinction.

Mauricio Pacheco from Diversidad entre Pendientes, a Bolivian blog on environmental issues, celebrates [es] the step given by Bolivian authorities:

Sumados a los otros ocho sitios designados desde 1990, Bolivia se convierte en el país que ha protegido, bajo este esquema, una mayor cantidad de territorios.

Together with other eight designated sites since 1990, Bolivia has became the country that has the largest number of territories protected under this scheme.

In spite of welcoming the news, International NGO World Land Trust quotes Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Bolivian NGO Asociación Armonía, who states:

“It is an important step for conservation that the importance of the Llanos de Moxos region has been given international recognition. It is a poorly studied area that holds important and threatened endemic species that need to be protected,” […]
“But,” he adds, “it is important to note that the Ramsar designation is just a step. We urgently need ongoing conservation efforts on the ground to forever protect the most threatened sites.”

Further down in his blog post, Mauricio Pacheco from Diversidad entre pendientes shares [es] a critical view as well:

Quiero ser optimista y pensar que en un futuro, ya no se permitirán los avasallamientos en el TIPNIS, en el Parque Carrasco, en el Amboró, en el Madidi, en el Cotapata. Quiero creer que se realizará una verdadera planificación de la producción en las laderas y los humedales, y que se integrará realmente a todos en esa planificación. Sobre todo, quiero creer que se entenderá la protección, no desde el cálculo político habitual, sino desde los beneficios enormes que aporta. La importancia que tiene para regular los sistemas hídricos del sudoeste de la amazonia, para mitigar los efectos del cambio climático, y garantizar los recursos productivos de las zonas agrícolas y ganaderas más importantes del país, y por tanto nuestra seguridad alimentaria.

I want to be optimistic and think that in the future they will no longer allow illegal penetration into areas like the TIPNIS, the Carrasco Park, the Amboró, Madidi, or Cotapata National Parks. I want to believe that there will be a plan for the development of slopes and wetlands, and that everyone will actually be included in that planning. Above all, I want to believe that protection will be understood, not under the regular political calculation, but from the enormous benefits it brings. How important it is for the regulation of water systems located in the South-western region of the Amazon, in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure the productive resources of the agricultural and pastoral areas in the country, and consequently our food security.

WWF Bolivia shared the following 8-minute video [es] on the wetlands in Bolivia, emphasizing the ‘Llanos of Moxos’ wetlands and the importance of its conservation:

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