Named after a pioneer of Bolivia’s conservation movement, Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is where the Amazon rainforest meets dry Chiquitano forests. Seasonally flooded savannas, forests, thorn scrub, rivers, wetlands, mesas, lagoons and black water bays also cover this vast area that is roughly the size of Massachusetts. With a great diversity of habitats and striking geological features such as the Huanchaca Plateau and breathtaking Arco Iris and Ahlfeld Falls, the 3.9-million-acre park is an amazing world to discover.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is in northeastern Bolivia on the Brazilian border and its limits are determined mostly by rivers. The park is one of the largest, most intact parks in the Amazon Basin and is located in a transition zone between the dry Chiquitano forests in the south and the humid Amazon forest to the north on the southern fringe of the vast Amazonian watershed.
About 100 of the world's estimated 1,000 giant river otters live along Noel Kempff's waterways. Besides otters, other river creatures inhabiting the area include capybaras, pink river dolphins, and both black and spectacled caimans.
Noel Kempff has 139 mammal species, 74 reptile species, 62 amphibian species and 254 fish species. Tapirs, gray and red brocket deer, silvery marmosets, pumas, jaguars, maned wolves, giant anteaters, and spider and black howler monkeys are mammals of special interest. Harpy eagles, storks, Amazonian umbrella birds, helmeted manakins, hoatzins, rusty-necked piculet and more than 20 types of parrots are among the park's 620 bird species.
Noel Kempff is a mix of wet Amazon rainforest, dry Cerrado grasslands, forests, and thorn scrub. Orchids, bromelias and palms are among the park's 4,000 plant species. Mahogany, cedar and rubber trees also thrive here.
The Nature Conservancy's Work
Keeping trees standing in Bolivia not only provides animal habitat and benefits the local population in many ways such as watershed protection, but it also helps to regulate the world’s climate. When cleared or degraded, forests release carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases proven to cause climate change. Deforestation from burning and cutting alone is responsible for as much as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Preventing deforestation and regenerating native forests reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and protects biological diversity.
In late 1996, the Government of Bolivia, the Conservancy, the Bolivian environmental organization Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN), and three energy companies started the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project. The project used $1.6 million of its $9.6 million in initial funding to terminate logging rights on 2.1 million acres of government-owned land. With incorporation of that land into the park, Noel Kempff Mercado grew from 1.8 million acres (750,633 hectares) to 3.9 million acres (1,582,322 hectares).
The Noel Kempff Climate Action Project is expected to void and/or mitigate more than 5.8 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over 30 years by preventing logging and agricultural conversion of the land. The Government of Bolivia, American Electric Power, BP and PacifiCorp have all agreed to support this iniciative and invest in the project alongside The Nature Conservancy and FAN.
The project also includes an ongoing, comprehensive plan to monitor the number of trees in Noel Kempff Mercado, socioeconomic impacts, and the rate of deforestation.
By protecting forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), the Noel Kempff project simultaneously address climate change, conserve biodiversity and bring sustainable development benefits to local communities through:
- the monitoring, verification and commercialization of carbon offsets resulting from the project;
- a community support program that aids in the development of sustainable use and management of natural resources;
- park protection that promotes forest conservation and prevents deforestation.
- The project has avoided 1,034,107 tons CO2 emissions, which would have been caused by logging and deforestation between 1997 and 2005; after 30 years, the project is expected to avoid the release of 5.8 million tons of carbon emissions.
- Besides reducing carbon emissions, the project preserves a rich and biologically diverse forest ecosystem for species such as the Brazilian tapir and the jaguar.
- The park's rivers are cleaner because the project decreases soil erosion and runoff into the park's rivers.
The project's carbon benefits are expected to last in perpetuity as the site lies within the newly expanded national park and a permanent endowment has been established to fund protection activities throughout the 30-year life of the project and beyond.
Noel Kempff Communities
The carbon reductions produced by the project could not have been achieved without the support of the native people who depend upon the region’s forests for their livelihoods. The Noel Kempff Climate Action Project has also enabled local community improvements. As a pilot project in the region, the work will help inform future projects.
Project benefits for communities
- provided legal assistance to native communities to help them acquire title to 360,000 hectares (889,200 acres) of their traditional lands;
- improved access to health care services, potable water supplies, sanitation systems, road repairs and improved educational services including a scholarship program;
- encouraged the participation of community members in the Park’s management committee, and the hiring of community members as park guards and carbon monitoring technicians;
- established a community forestry program that promotes the sustainable management of natural resources.
In 2005, the project became the world’s first forest emissions reduction project to be verified by a third party based on international standards established by the Kyoto Protocol. The project is assisting the Bolivian Government in developing mechanisms for the sale of the carbon offsets and is supporting communities and their leaders in taking a pro-active role in designing the legal structure that will allow them to collect compensation for their carbon offsets.