Indigenous Use of Fire and Forest Loss in Canaima National Park, Venezuela. Assessment of and Tools for Alternative Strategies of Fire Management in Pemón Indigenous Lands

Bilbao, B. A., et al., 2010. Human Ecology

Original research (primary data)
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In Canaima National Park (CNP), Venezuela, a protected area inhabited by the Pemoجپn people, socio- cultural and demographic changes have contributed to the apparent unsustainable use of fire, leading to forest and habitat loss. This over-use of fire, together with increased forest vulnerability to fire as a result of global climate change, could put both ecosystems and human well-being at risk. The conflict over fire use derives from the fact that whereas the Pemoجپn depend for their livelihood on the use of fire for shifting cultivation and hunting, the policy of the CNP government agencies is fire exclusion (although this is not effectively enforced). Nevertheless, recent ecological studies have revealed that the creation of a mosaic of patches with different fire histories could be used to create firebreaks that reduce the risk of the wildfires that threaten the vulnerable and diverse savanna-forest transition areas. This technique imitates the traditional cooperative savanna burning strategies of the Pemoجپn. By linking research on knowledge systems with management policies, the impasse over fire in the CNP might be avoided.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-164-1
  • Intervention type: Management
  • Intervention description:

    simulated traditional Pemón fire management methods by burning a series of plots of savanna at different intervals (treatments) over a seven- year period … The principle behind this ’burning so that fires don ́t enter forests’ (apokwomu namaituretatak) is thus to reduce the level of combustible grasses near forests and to form a firebreak (apokwako nin).”

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Wildfire  Positive Fire return interval, ratio of dead to live biomass, Recovery of the aboveground biomass after fire
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Canaima National Park (CNP), Venezuela The fire experiment was done near the Parupa Scientific Station (5°43′N, 61°35′W, 1,226 masl)

  • Country: Venezuela
  • Habitat/Biome type: Tropical and subtropical grasslands |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: fig 3 /fig 4 shows all the plots, control, and experimental burns at different frequencies which show that fires did not occur until fuel load reached 600 g/ m2 of total fuel and when dead live rations were less than 1; they infer therefore that “could support the creation of a mosaic of patches with different fire histories that could be used as firebreaks, reducing the risk of hazardous wildfires, especially in the vulnerable and diverse savanna-forest transitions”
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Yes
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: species abundance and composition
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures:
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: