The park administration does not currently have enough resources to carry out its own research activities. Instead, most research to date has been carried out by the Ecology Institute of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA, La Paz), which started working in the area in 1995. That same year, Ribera conducted a socio-ecological assessment and in the “Caminos de Cotapata” book (De Morales, 1995), Aguirre et al. elaborated a preliminary management plan which included the park’s first zoning proposal. Using a participative diagnosis approach, between 1998 and 1999 Trópico carried out a thorough study of the area’s cultural heritage and natural resource use and management, practices.
Since 1997, the Ecology Institute has operated the Tunquini Biological Station (Estación Biológica Tunquini - EBT) with funding from the MacArthur Foundation. It is located in a humid montane forest (approximately 1,500 asl), a few kilometers from the locality of Chairo. And, until its closing in August 2005, the station was one of the few study centers for tropical montane forests, which are much less known and understood than other tropical ecosystems (Bruijnzeel and Hamilton, 2001).
Until its closure in August 2005, the Tunquini Biological Station provided unique opportunities for the study of humid montane forests. Photos: Left: DDB; Right: Elmer Cuba
During its operation, the EBT concurrently implemented five conservation programs: fauna management (control of crop-ravaging vertebrate species and generation of economic alternatives for commercial butterfly and ornamental fish management), forestry management (targeting species used to make tool handles), agroecology (analysis of the agricultural potential of the area’s lowland soils), development planning (carried out by local communities), and environmental quality monitoring (using various biological indicators). All of these medium-term projects attempted to generate economic alternatives for the station’s neighboring community, Chairo. Work was also conducted on epiphyte and dung beetle management (Pacheco, pers. comm.).
The EBT also hosted other organizations, such as the Bolivian Bat Conservation Program (Programa para la Conservación de Murciélagos de Bolivia - PCMB), whose scientists studied bat diversity and their role in seed dispersal in secondary forests and croplands between the community of Chairo and the biological station (Rios-Aramayo et al., 2000). A joint collaboration between the University of Göttingen (Germany) and UMSA investigated altitudinal variations in the Yungas forests’ climate, soil, and flora (Bach et al., 2003).
In 2005, the relations between the EBT and the community of Chairo seriously deteriorated when the latter made a series of requests that did not and should not pertain to EBT’s attributions, and which the former refused to attend. In response, the community threatened the station’s staff and forced them to abandon the property. The Ecology Institute tried to mediate the conflict and to obtain certain guarantees concerning the security of staff, infrastructure, and equipment, without which they would have to abandon the site, but negotiations failed. Other communities in the protected area have offered their support and suggested the possibility of transferring the station to their communal properties.
The BIAP project has hired staff to develop a monitoring program for Cotapata, which will follow the guidelines of SERNAP’s Conservation Monitoring System (Monjeau et al, 2003).
Since 2000, the Theoretical and Applied Biological Study Center (Centro de Estudios en Biología Teórica and Aplicada - BIOTA), with help from the protection corps, conducted a forestry inventory in order to understand the harvest patterns and recovery dynamics of the area’s forestry species (cedar, nogal, five varieties of laurel, incense and copal) (SERNAP, 2003b). Since 2003, this organization has operated an environmental education radio program in the municipality of Coroico, also working with local schools in the framework of its “Schoolyard Ecology Teaching” program (Enseñanza de Ecología en el Patio de la Escuela - EEPE) (Roldán, pers. comm.).
Active in three protected areas in the country (Cotapata NP-IMNA, Apolobamba IMNA, and Amboró NP-IMNA), COBIMI is a cooperative program between the Conservation and Biodiversity Center of the American Museum of Natural History (CBC-AMNH), the Bolivian Fauna Collection (Colección Boliviana de Fauna), the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz (MHNNKM). Along with its principal activity - the support of small community conservation projects, between 1999 and 2003 the program conducted investigations on the altitudinal distribution of Cotapata’s animal diversity and organized workshops on research in protected areas and community participation in conservation.
In 2003, a student from the Geography Department of the Universidad Autonóma of Madrid (UAM) carried out a detailed land use analysis of Mount Nogalani and of the lower parts of the Huarinilla valley, focusing on the state of conservation efforts and environmental impacts from the Cotapata-Santa Barbara highway (Sevilla Callejo, 2003 and Sevilla Callejo et al., 2003). This led to the drafting of a zoning and management proposal, which the same student is now applying to the entire protected area in the framework of a doctoral thesis.
3D rendering of Mount Nogalani, where the impacts of the new road can be clearly identified. Author: MSC
In the direct vicinity of the park, another student is involved in the monitoring of the deforestation process of the Uchumachi mountain range (Municipalities of Coroico and Coripata) using remote sensing techniques and GIS (Cuba-Orozco, in preparation).
Since 1997, the NGO Ayuda en Acción has provided assistance to rural development projects in the park’s zone of influence (in the surroundings of Coroico).
Alas, Cotapata NP-IMNA is part of the Amboró-Madidi Biological Corridor (AMBC), the Bolivian portion of the binational Vilcabamba-Amboró Corridor (CEPF, 2001), whose regional conservation focus has captured donor interest and thus catalyzed a large number of national and regional conservation and research projects. CI-Bolivia, FAN (Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza), MHNNKM, and Trópico have published or are about to publish various documents related to this corridor (Ibisch and Araujo, unpublished; Trópico, in press; Navarro et al., 2004; Ibisch and Araujo, 2003; Young and Leon, 2003; Araujo and Ibisch, 2000).