Article

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 178, Issue 1, pp 333-347

Human impact on wild firewood species in the Rural Andes community of Apillapampa, Bolivia

  • Evert ThomasAffiliated withLaboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture and Ethnobotany, Ghent University Email author 
  • , David DouterlungneAffiliated withSistemas de Producción Alternativos, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur
  • , Ina VandebroekAffiliated withInstitute of Economic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden
  • , Frieke HeensAffiliated withResearch Group Spermatophytes, Department of Biology, Ghent University
  • , Paul GoetghebeurAffiliated withResearch Group Spermatophytes, Department of Biology, Ghent University
  • , Patrick Van DammeAffiliated withLaboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture and Ethnobotany, Ghent University

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Abstract

Firewood is the basic fuel source in rural Bolivia. A study was conducted in an Andean village of subsistence farmers to investigate human impact on wild firewood species. A total of 114 different fuel species was inventoried during fieldtrips and transect sampling. Specific data on abundance and growth height of wild firewood species were collected in thirty-six transects of 50 ×2 m2. Information on fuel uses of plants was obtained from 13 local Quechua key participants. To appraise the impact of fuel harvest, the extraction impact value (EIV) index was developed. This index takes into account local participants’ appreciation of (1) decreasing plant abundance; (2) regeneration capacity of plants; (3) impact of root harvesting; and (4) quality of firewood. Results suggest that several (sub-)woody plant species are negatively affected by firewood harvesting. We found that anthropogenic pressure, expressed as EIV, covaried with density of firewood species, which could entail higher human pressure on more abundant and/or more accessible species. The apparent negative impact of anthropogenic pressure on populations of wild fuel species is corroborated by our finding that, in addition to altitude, several anthropogenic variables (i.e. site accessibility, cultivation of exotics and burning practices) explain part of the variation in height of firewood species in the surroundings of Apillapampa.

Keywords

Fuel Quechuas Andes Anthropogenic pressure Mountain areas Ethnobotany Plant use Firewood Vegetation ecology