Valuing Water in a Changing Climate and Economy in the Gran Chaco Americano
Climate change and deforestation are causing extreme drought, intense rainfall, and flooding in the Gran Chaco Americano. This vast plain extends through northern Argentina, southeastern Bolivia, northwestern Paraguay, and into southwestern Brazil. This project will examine the problem by assessing the socio-economic impacts of climate change on the area's production systems in relation to water resources. Loss of natural habitat According to the UNs' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Chaco has one of the greatest predicted natural habitat losses due to deforestation from agricultural expansion. This deforestation activity has increased over the past decade. The area has been developed for agricultural production systems on a large scale in response to international demand. Its lowland valuations and the region's suitability for growing soybean and biofuel crops have fuelled the loss of habitat. Over the past eight years, approximately 2.5 million hectares of native forest have been cleared and converted into pasture and agricultural land. Climate change and water resources Projected climate change for the Gran Chaco predicts an increase in average annual temperature of more than 1°C by 2040. In some areas, such as Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the increase could be as much as 1.75°C. Changes in precipitation are less certain, although trends point to increased variation in seasonal and spatial distribution of rainfall. The region currently has a limited ability to adapt due to its heavy dependence on agriculture, lack of infrastructure to manage water resources, and weak institutions. Sustainable development in the Gran Chaco In March 2007, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay ratified the Framework Cooperation Agreement for the Sub-Regional Action Program for the Sustainable Development of the Gran Chaco Americano. The agreement's intention is to -improve socio-economic conditions for people -establish concrete actions that will reduce the degradation of the Chaco's ecosystems -preserve biological and cultural diversity New knowledge needed Recent studies have focused on understanding the vulnerability of the Chaco's ecosystems. Earlier research supported by IDRC identified land-use changes from native forest to more intensive and permanent crops for commodity markets (pastures and agriculture). This project proposes to build on previous studies by supporting research that will -evaluate the socio-economic impacts of climate change in the region -examine the relationship between water demands and agricultural output through virtual water analysis -perform a cost-benefit analysis of successful water storage practices for human consumption and pastures -organize events that bring together researchers, policymakers, private sector, and communities to share results and discuss adaptation options -provide socio-economic evidence to national governments to support informed decision-making options for adopting common policies The project team will meet with major funders to leverage funds for future research to support the adoption of risk management tools and technologies in the Dry Chaco sub-region (based on decisions at the Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015).