Tsimane’, Department of Beni

Amazonia, Bolivia

Credit: A. B. Junqueira

Tsimane’ Indigenous Peoples in Bolivian Amazonia report increasing temperature and decreasing and variable precipitation. These changes affect soils and rivers with cascading effects in flora, fauna and crops. Tsimane’ argue that climate change interacts with resource extraction, deforestation and the presence of traders and loggers on their lands in impelling environmental change. Environmental changes are often interpreted in cosmological and/or spiritual terms by the community Tsimane’.

Tsimane - geoloc map


Horticulturalist and foraging community of approximately 15,000 people living in the Dept Beni, Bolivia.
Tsimane’ villages are mostly settled around the Maniqui and Secure rivers, in titled communal lands.

Mapa Tsimane

Credit: Á. Fernández-Llamazares


Icono Casas

People living upriver practice hunting, gathering, fishing and small-scale shifting agriculture.

Icono casas

People living downriver increasingly depend on cash cropping rice and plantain, sale of fish and thatch palm, and wage labor in logging camps and cattle ranches.


Credit: Á. Fernández-Llamazares



Changes in the climate

Thermomether - Ico
25.8ºC avg (episodic southern cold winds in May)

Records from the local weather station reveal that since the 1960s the area has experienced a steady increase in temperature, a pronounced decrease in rainfall in the rainy season, and an increase in the length of the dry period.

Water - Ico
1,750 mm/year (October to April)


Changes in the territory

Icono Árboles

Rainforests are at the basis of Tsimane’ livelihood. They provide food (game, wild edible plants), materials (for houses, canoes, etc), medicine, and sense of belonging.

From 1986 to 2009, forest cover increasingly fragmented due to the clearance of old-growth forests by logger companies, cattle ranchers, and agriculturalists. A decrease in plant, game, and fish abundance has been documented, and local extinctions reported. Rivers are polluted by several mercury-dependent artisanal gold miners operating in the area.

Icono río

Rivers provide water and food (fish) and connect the territory.


The Tsimane’ people have rich, temporal, place-based knowledge about their environment. This knowledge allows them to observe change and deduce drivers of these changes. Their way of talking about changes reflects their understanding of the processes leading to change.

Drivers of change

Bolas - Tsimane


Tsimane - impacts 01

Credit: A. B. Junqueira

From forests to crops and pastures
The opening of roads in the 1970s facilitated the arrival and establishment of cattle ranchers and highland colonists, which has progressively transformed forested areas into pastures and large scale agricultural fields.

Tsimane - impacts 02

Credit: A. B. Junqueira

Growth and wilderness don’t mix well
Population growth, technological innovations, and the increased presence of loggers and traders in Tsimane’ lands puts more pressure on hunting and fishing and leads to decrease in wild animal population.

Tsimane - impacts 03

Credit: A. B. Junqueira

Unwritten norms passing down wisdom
For the Tsimane’, the use of inappropriate, abusive, or culturally disrespectful hunting, fishing, and gathering techniques awakens the anger of the guardian spirits of nature who punish Tsimane’ with resource scarcity.


An integral view of change
Tsimane’ identify the simultaneous impact of different drivers of change and the cascade effects by which certain changes negatively impact other elements. An integral view of changeoffers a politicized view of the environment which emphasizes that impacts are not only biophysical but also social-ecological.

A culturally grounded view of change
Tsimane’ holistic view of environmental change incorporates cultural representations of the world, too often underrepresented in science. Tsimane’ cosmovision and spiritual beliefs play a prominent role in their understanding of how and why the world changes, and thus should be acknowledged in any attempt to bridge knowledge systems.

Biodiversity and cultural loss are entangled
Tsimane´ knowledge is directly related with their territory and its biodiversity. Land use change for agriculture and pastures, increased clearing of the primary forest, and hunting pressure over wild fauna is drastically changing their environment and eroding Tsimane´ holistic knowledge of their territory. Promoting biocultural conservation is a means to simultaneously maintain biological and cultural diversity.


Tsimane’ understand environmental change as resulting from multiple factors, some of which are linked to a historical process leading to the appropriation and fragmentation of their lands. Local policies to tackle the negative effects of environmental change in the area should equally address simultaneous drivers of change and acknowledge Tsimane’ cosmological understandings of change.


Indigenous and local understandings of the complex relations between different elements of the system could contribute to the co-generation of new knowledge about impacts and adaptations. This process requires to build researchers’ and decision makers’ competence and capacity to receive, comprehend, and value insights from Indigenous and local knowledge, both at the individual and institutional levels.

Credit: A. B. Junqueira


Reyes-García, V., P. Benyei, A.B. Junqueira, E. Conde, T. Huanca. Local understanding of drivers and cascade effects in environmental change: A case study from the Tsimane’, Bolivian Amazon. In V. Reyes-García and LICCI Team, Routledge Handbook of Climate Change Impacts on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. Routledge. ISBN 9781032412139

Fernández-Llamazares, A., R.A. García, I. Díaz-Reviriego, M. Cabeza, A. Pyhälä, V. Reyes-García. An empirically-tested overlap between local and scientific knowledge of a changing climate. Regional Environmental Change. 17(6): 1673-1685. 2017. DOI 10.1007/s10113-017-1125-5.

Fernández-Llamazares, Á, I. Díaz-Reviriego, V. Reyes-García.  Defaunation through the eyes of the Tsimane’. In Reyes-García, V. and Pyhälä, A. (Eds.) Hunter-Gatherers in a Changing World. Springer. Chapt 5: 77-90. 2017. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-42271-8.


Tomás Huanca, Esther Conde, Petra Benyei, André B. Junqueira, Victoria Reyes-García