Vanessa Gandarillas Rodriguez

Thesis title

Developing biodiversity indicators for impact assessment - The case of Hydropower in the Bolivian Amazon

Thesis abstract

Bolivian environmental impact assessments lack a systematic consideration of options to avoid, minimise, restore, or offset the impact of large infrastructure projects on biodiversity. This study aims at developing such an implementation framework based on a set of appropriate biodiversity indicators. This is particularly relevant as the Bolivian government has launched several large multipurpose hydropower projects in order to fulfill energy demands in the country but also to ensure food security of the Bolivian population. Main river systems in the biogeographic region of the Amazon in Bolivia, will be dammed until 2025 by medium sized and mega hydropower projects. This development aims to boost economic and social aspects of Bolivia - the poorest and most food insecure country in South America. However, the extent and scale of that development is beyond existing mechanisms to address its full biodiversity consequences. At present, the new hydroelectric projects do not have an adequate evaluation on how to assess the negative impacts they could generate to biodiversity, and how this impacts should be considered in a comprehensive impact assessment framework, at a regional level and at the basin scale. This lack of strategic planning is especially problematic in Bolivia, given the fact that it is considered as one of the ten most biodiverse countries of the planet.


The study will analyze suitable biodiversity indicators applicable to the Amazon region of Bolivia based on available knowledge and success stories from other countries that will be adapted to the Bolivian context and to the hydropower sector. These indicators will be identified in a participatory way through workshops and expert consultations in line with the following topology: Prior to the start of the project, options to avoid negative impacts need to be addressed. Second, measures to avoid or at least minimize these impacts need to be applied. Further, ways to minimize negative impacts and compensate for unavoidable losses will be evaluated. Lastly, concepts to monitor impacts as well as the appropriateness off mitigation and compensation measures will be developed. Altogether, the findings will be integrated into a comprehensive implementation framework, to serve as a strategical assessment guidance, to improve the current practice of biodiversity assessment in Bolivia by helping decision makers set priorities, providing information and influencing new policies towards conservation and sustainable development.

Doctoral research funded by

BMZ via DAAD, Foundation fiat panis

Supervisors of
doctoral work

Prof. Dr. Christian Borgemeister

Advisor at ZEF

Dr. Jan Henning Sommer

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Additionals, Curriculum Vitae
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Junior Researcher

Department :
ZEF C: Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management