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Institutions and REsearch in the Pantanal: towards a bioregional research agenda to support Policy Institutions, Legal Frameworks and Social Action

Final Report Summary - INREP (Institutions and REsearch in the Pantanal: towards a bioregional research agenda to support Policy Institutions, Legal Frameworks and Social Action)

Considered the largest weltand in the world if the rain forests are excluded, the Pantanal region in South America is an unparalleled hotspot of biodiversity. The 'Institutions and research in the Pantanal: towards a bioregional research agenda to support policy institutions, legal frameworks and social action' (INREP) project, which centred on developing sustainable water management and safeguarding biodiversity, is of importance for the strengthening of the European Research Area.

Europe has a long-standing tradition in river management, biodiversity and related research. The Water Directive and European concepts for water management have been partly guiding for the water legislation in Brazil. However, there is growing environmental concern in the Pantanal region, specially related to water and biodiversity and institutional that requires more scientific cooperation.

The project kicked off with a preparatory workshop in Cuiaba (Mato Grosso), hosting 37 participants (representing Paraguay, Bolivia, Mato Grosso and Federal Government Brazil) and undertaking a SWOT analysis framework. A second workshop has been held in Campo Grande with 35 participants (representing Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraguay and Federal Government Brazil). Both workshops discussed the problems chances for the future.

The documents produced out of these workshops formed the basis for the Campo Grande symposium in July 2006, where 82 participants from Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Germany and the Netherlands have been discussing the SWOT analysis and turned this into a research agenda. Observers were present from the EU representation in Brazil, UNESCO, the Dutch and the US embassy.

In Bolivia the political situation was changing in this period. Therefore special visits have been made to Santa Cruz de la Sierra and La Paz. Still however, the situation in Bolivia was rather hectic at the moment of the symposium. This made the Bolivian participants decide to organise an additional workshop in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It was organised with participation of 20 local organisations (public sector, private sector and research groups) on 7 November 2006.

The project produced country documents for the three countries, analysing the political and institutional situation and results of the SWOT analysis. These documents have been produced in Spanish, Portuguese and English. The symposium produced a document with priority actions for the region. This has been transformed into a Research Agenda for the region. Based on the outcomes of the INREP project, the following the following items are presented as major themes:

1. Environmental impacts: diagnosis and remediation; this includes the Hidrovía of the Paraguay River and the role of the Pantanal for the climate of the region and the Plata basin under changing climatic conditions.
2. Assessment and mapping; this includes the international cooperation in a monitoring system and the exchange of data for the whole of the UPRB that is crucial for the understanding of human influence on the ecosystems and can promote international cooperation in the region.
3. Sustainable natural resources management, which includes the special way that wetlands have to be managed by farmers, fisherman cost-benefit analysis and other and land as well water quality maintenance essential for the Pantanal.
4. Governance, laws, institutions and policy, research in social interaction, stakeholder participation is of utmost importance to understand the complex relations in water and land management, social participation in the process of decision making can long term cooperation and sustainability.
5. Sustainable development: diagnosis and solutions; scenario models can help to develop decision support systems being based on different options for management, taking into account, the extent of the area, the low density of the population and the predominant natural processes.
6. Capacity building is cross cutting the five preceding issues involving the identification of gaps in education, information, technologies, methodologies, institutional frameworks and services.

Conclusions and recommendations

The Paraguay-Parana Hidrovia

One of the major international issues in the region is the use of the Paraguay-Parana River as a transport waterway: the Hidrovia Paraguay. It is part of the Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná navigation project that is considered by the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to be the backbone of plans for integrating the regional economy.

A better navigable Paraguay River can be especially of interest for transport routes from and to Bolivia. All studies and evaluations have been done by parties that are thought to have an interest in the development or in the conservation of the status quo. A study towards the development of the Paraguay as a waterway is however complex and includes international political, economic, hydraulic, hydrological and ecological aspects.

A rational way to help resolve the debate between status quo and pro-Hidrovia parties is through hydraulic modelling of the river, with hydrological modelling of the river basin, and an analysis of the land use, biodiversity and policy consequences under supervision of an independent steering committee.

Climate change, the climate function and land use of the Pantanal

The Pantanal is one of the major wetlands of Latin America. It is an evaporation window (a source of air humidity) surrounded by an area of dry Chaco and Cerrado with scattered smaller wetlands. Therefore its role in the climate of this part of the world might be pivotal. However, at present little is known on the climate aspects of the Pantanal.

Maintenance of wetlands in their current state, including their goods and services and the species they support, is crucially linked to averting serious changes in land use and climate change. without extremely careful integrated management, one of the planet's greatest environmental treasures will be altered forever by human encroachment.

Analysis of the function of the Pantanal and the UPRB on regional climate and its relation to climate change, biodiversity, agriculture and productivity of the Cerrado and the Chaco regions are important issues in the decision making on its future development of Latin America.

Assessment and mapping

The Environmental Secretariat of Paraguay (SEMA) has concluded that impacts of all activities and environmental changes in the upper Paraguay river basin do have consequences for Paraguay. An important aspect of the Pantanal is that it is a flooded savannah. Its flooding is considered essential for the environmental richness of the area and it has put it on the world map.

The Pantanal is a declared UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, and many protected areas are located in the UPRB to guard safe wildlife. The disappearance of the flooding in the Taquarí has natural and man-made causes and human and biodiversity consequences. Knowing how the Pantanal is behaving under the pressure of changing land use in the surroundings is essential in understanding flooded rivers and in maintaining biodiversity and related economic activities.

Setting up a monitoring system and the exchange of data for the whole of the UPRB is crucial for the understanding of mankind influence on the ecosystems and can promote international cooperation in the region. Building a database requires political agreement between the regions and states involved and should include institutes which can take the responsibility to act as coordinating body.

This means that a cost-efficient monitoring system should be developed, combining enhanced process understanding, state of the art modelling, the necessary new technologies for in-situ measurements adapted to the frequency of processes and changes, integrating measurements of chemical, biological, ecological parameters and climatic parameters at scales (temporal and spatial) of relevance to water policy of the UPRB. Links can be sought with GEOSS (Global Environmental Observation System of Systems) and EUWI-LA (European Union Water Initiative – Latin America).

Sustainable natural resources management: rational land and water use in the UPRB

Traditional Pantanal commodities such as cattle and fishing cannot compete in today's world oriented market. Traditional farmers are selling their land to outsiders, and large-scale agriculture is taking place in the Planalto in Brazil. In the Planalto riparian forests along rivers have been cut down or degraded, which has led to increased erosion and sedimentation, and disruption of the local hydrologic pattern. This has impacts on the socio-economic situation of the local communities (including indigenous tribes), made navigation difficult and also hindered waterfowl and fish migration.

Sustainable land and water management requires legislation, incentives, guidelines and integrated planning of land use. Farmers and land users new in this area should learn that the catchments they work and live with are vulnerable for their activities. But there are methods to maintain a sustainable management practice when regarding certain policy and management principles. Moreover, treatment of urban and industrial wastewater is essential for maintaining the function of the Pantanal. A costs and benefits study can be carried out in this respect to solve the equation: economic growth with reduced environmental impacts and social conflicts.

Research organisations in the UPRB

Several research organisations are active within the Pantanal. The majority is from Brazil and some are from abroad (USA and Europe). Research is important for several reasons. The region needs economic development in an environmental sensitive setting. Therefore, the relationship between environment and economy is a crucial issue, as the benefits and costs of environmental assets can perfectly be analysed in the case of the Pantanal. Here economy can depend on biodiversity, but it also can destroy it (as industrialisation and sugarcane plantation can be among the opportunities).

Institutions and research organisations can optimise their activities and be prepared for joint projects when an organisation scheme is available, showing the fields of expertise of the different groups and the way they can cooperate in projects. Special attention is needed for participation from Paraguay and Bolivia.

Sustainable development: diagnosis and solutions

Sustainable water and wetland management at the river basin level is the basis of equitable development of the UPRB. It is important to decide on the desirable developments in the UPBR and the Pantanal based on sound scientific arguments, considering the anxieties and wishes of the different stakeholders. To address this issue, scenario models should be developed and decision support systems can be of use. Decisions will have to be based on different options for management, taking into account the extent of the area, the low density of the population and the predominant natural processes. Therefore developing scenarios using reliable and integrated models for river management is crucial.

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