Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 86, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Agroforestry species of the Bolivian Andes: an integrated assessment of ecological, economic and socio-cultural plant values

  • Regine BrandtEmail author
  • Heike Zimmermann
  • Isabell Hensen
  • Juan Carlos Mariscal Castro
  • Stephan Rist


Agroforestry is a promising method for enhancing land-use sustainability in the Bolivian Andes. However, its benefits in terms of rural development are under-recognized due to gaps in understanding users’ perceptions while taking into consideration both local and global environmental goals. Our study aimed to narrow these gaps by developing an analytical framework for analyzing the site-specific socio-ecological factors and interactions related to local woody species and assessing their ecological, economic, and socio-cultural plant values in order to identify the most promising agroforestry species. The framework was then tested in an indigenous community at 2,760–3,830 m a.s.l., incorporating vegetation surveys, environmental studies, and interviews on plant functions. Ecological, economic, and socio-cultural values and the ecological apparency of plants were calculated, and detrended correspondence and principal component analyses helped to reveal the socio-ecological context of significant factors for plant distribution and uses. Results showed dominating seral woody species along an altitudinal gradient. Although shrubs were more ecologically apparent than trees, trees were perceived to be more valuable as the usefulness and cultural importance of species increased with plant height and timber availability. Phytosociological factors played a minor but still significant role in perceived usefulness. Schinus molle and Prosopis laevigata (<3,200 m a.s.l.), Polylepis subtusalbida (>3,200 m a.s.l.), and Baccharis dracunculifolia (both zones) were evaluated as most promising for agroforestry use. In conclusion, our analytical framework proved to be a valuable tool for context-specific agroforestry plant selection. Nonetheless, economic, technical, and socio-cultural limitations of cultivating native agroforestry species were revealed as well. Agroforestry science and practice should, therefore, focus on enhancing reproductive potentials of existing woody vegetation, as well as problem-oriented horizontal dialogues between indigenous, expert, and scientific actors.


Agroforestry Bolivian Andes Local knowledge Native woody species Quantitative ethnobotany Socio-ecological plant values 



We greatly appreciate the financial support received from the Andrea-von-Braun-Stiftung in Munich, Germany. Our most sincere thanks go to the syndicate assembly of Tres Cruces and the local leaders of the sub-central Waka Playa for authorizing our research, and to all local peasants who facilitated the study with confidence and ready cooperation. We are also thankful for the technical assistance of the BioAndes conservation and development program, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Moreover, we would like to acknowledge the scientific support of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North–South: Research Partnerships for Mitigating Syndromes of Global Change, a research program co-funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), SDC, and the participating institutions. Furthermore, we are thankful to the Bolivian National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (SENAMHI), Cochabamba, for providing climatic data, as well as to Magaly Mercado and the working team of the herbarium of Cochabamba (BOLV) for their support in plant identification. We are very grateful to our colleagues Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel (CDE), Rolando Sánchez, Sonia Medrano, Roger Juárez, Deicy Mejía (AGRUCO), Michael Beckmann, Christine Voigt, Catharina Landschulz, Ronny Warzecha, and Heidi Hirsch (MLU) for cooperating in field studies, interview translation, soil analyses, and graphic presentation. Finally, we would like to acknowledge Marlène Thibault and Danny McCluskey for proofreading the manuscripts, and the anonymous reviewers who have contributed to improving this paper.

Supplementary material

10457_2012_9503_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (57 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 57 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Regine Brandt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heike Zimmermann
    • 1
  • Isabell Hensen
    • 1
  • Juan Carlos Mariscal Castro
    • 2
  • Stephan Rist
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Biology/Geobotany and Botanical GardenMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Agroecología Universidad Cochabamba (AGRUCO)Universidad Mayor de San Simón (UMSS)CochabambaBolivia
  3. 3.Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)University of BernBernSwitzerland

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