The Chiquitano Forest is the largest of the world’s few remaining dry forest ecosystems. It sits between South America’s two largest river basins: the Amazon and La Plata.

In 2019, the Chiquitano Forest suffered one of the largest forest fires in Bolivian history, with approximately 3.6 million hectares burned, or almost 10% of the Santa Cruz Department. Fires occur every year in the area, due to regular pasture burning and ongoing agricultural expansion. But in 2019, intentional fires spiraled rapidly out of control, amid climate-change-related drying and high temperatures.

Several national, regional and local policies are underway in Bolivia in response to the 2019 fires. SEI is supporting the Integral Restoration Plan for the Santa Cruz Department by building a framework for the evaluation of the impacts of fires and the prioritization of restoration efforts at the watershed level. As the development of groundwater resources rapidly expands in the recently burned areas, the WATCH Chiquitania project puts a specific emphasis on studies and modelling of groundwater dynamics in the context of the fire impacts. This will provide the foundation for a set of integrated water resource models, which will be fully developed during the next phases of the project.

This project will build upon the robust decision-making approach used in Bolivia WATCH — or WASH Thinking Connected to Hydrology. It will seek to facilitate a dialogue centered on water between university researchers and decision-makers, including MMAyA, the Government of Santa Cruz, municipalities and communities.