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Colombia - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, hosting close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fishes and amphibians. With 314 types of ecosystems, Colombia possesses a rich complexity of ecological, climatic, biological and ecosystem components. Colombia was ranked as one of the world’s richest countries in aquatic resources, which is explained in part by the fact that the country’s large watersheds feed into the four massive sub-continental basins of the Amazon, Orinoco, Caribbean, Magdalena-Cauca and the Pacific. The country has several areas of high biological diversity in the Andean ecosystems, characterized by a significant variety of endemic species, followed by the Amazon rainforests and the humid ecosystems in the Chocó biogeographical area. This varied richness represents a significant challenge for implementing sustainable development initiatives. However, a considerable part of these natural ecosystems has been transformed for agriculture, primarily in the Andean and Caribbean regions. It has been estimated that almost 95% of the country’s dry forests have been reduced from their original cover, including close to 70% of typically Andean forests.

The primary terrestrial biomes in Colombia have undergone several changes: 53% of the mainland is still covered with natural forests, which account for more than half of the terrestrial animals and plants, and more than two-thirds of terrestrial net primary production. One of the most threatened forest ecosystems is the dry forest, whose range is around 2% of its original extension. About 2% of the Colombian mainland is covered by moorlands, which are considered one of the most important ecosystems for human well-being because of the source of water they provide to more than three-quarters of the population in these areas. The Amazon and Andean regions have the highest number of plant species, followed by the Pacific, the Caribbean region and the Orinoquía. Colombia’s biodiversity is not only important for the country’s natural heritage and the preservation of unique species in the world, it is also essential for guaranteeing basic conditions for the improvement of human welfare, social equality and economic development today and in the future. Moreover, biodiversity and its functions and processes provide direct-use goods and services, such as food, medicines, fuel, wood and water as well as indirect-use services, such as climate regulation, prevention of disasters, soil formation, water purification and recreation.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main threats to the conservation of biodiversity include, among others: increasing social inequality; internal armed conflict for more than five decades; reprimarization of the economy; the illegal drug trade; weak access policy and titling; implementation of extensive livestock and agricultural models. Such factors contribute to habitat degradation, changes in land use, increased presence of invasive species, climate change, overconsumption of services and general pollution dynamics. There are intrinsic elements that threaten biodiversity protection in Colombia, some of which include a lack of political priority of environmental issues in national and sectorial policies, undesired effects of macroeconomic policies, conflict with indigenous rights and traditional knowledge, and conflicts due to a lack of coordination regarding land-use planning that takes place at various state levels.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

A first effort to define and implement a national biodiversity policy was made between 1998 and 2006, followed by a second phase consisting of the "Política Nacional para la Gestión Integral de la Biodiversidad y sus Servicios Ecosistémicos (PNGIBSE)" launched in July 2012. This national policy promotes a new approach for achieving sustainable use of biodiversity in the country, and is oriented towards an integrated management of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides, with the scope of maintaining and increasing the resilience of socioecological systems at the local, national and regional levels. It comprises six strategic components: (i) conservation of nature; (ii) governance and creation of public value; (iii) economic development, competitiveness and quality of life; (iv) knowledge, technology and information management; (v) risk management and provision of ecosystem services; (vi) co-responsibility and global commitments. Actions for implementing the policy are to be jointly arranged, coordinated and implemented by the public sector, the production sector and civil society. The policy also establishes the links between the policy’s strategic components and their contribution to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, as well as some priority actions to be implemented by 2014 in alignment with the targets of the National Development Plan (2010-2014).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The implementation of management plans in protected areas has significantly improved in Colombia. Furthermore, the implementation of the Policy for Clean Production in several agricultural sectors has brought positive results. A program promoting cleaner production (Producción más Limpia) has been proposed, involving different sectors, such as agriculture, transportation, mining and energy, communications, hydrocarbons, communications, industry and tourism.

On the other hand, the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Illegal Trafficking of Wildlife Species has also been put in place and 10 regional committees have been established. However, the implementation of the strategy is not strong due to various reasons (e.g. undefined sustainability criteria for fisheries and aquatic resources, lack of baseline data and clarity regarding strategic lines of action, non-application of the Ecosystem Approach).

In addition, several NGOs have initiated projects aimed at the protection of the yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) which is currently the most endangered parrot in tropical America, due to high hunting activity and habitat loss. Two areas are being continuously monitored and studied with positive outcomes (IUCN has announced that 1000 parrots of this kind exist today in Colombia). This project has also allowed for measures to be taken to protect the wax palms where the yellow-eared parrot nest and live.

Colombia may be one of the most advanced countries in the region in regard to integrated management for maintaining and improving adaptive measures for handling the effects of climate change. Since 2005, Colombia has been involved in the development of a pilot project in regard to the Integrated National Adaption Plan (INAP) to address climate change in high mountain ecosystems, island areas and the Caribbean. The project also seeks to incorporate the expected effects of climate change and mitigation activities within sectorial policies. In order to prevent or mitigate climate change, the Nature Foundation has instituted monitoring protocols in different regions, especially in dry forests, humid highlands and deserts.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Since 2005, inter-institutional agendas have been signed to promote environmental management. Ministries from several sectors are involved, such as: agriculture, urban development, education, defense, trade and industry, health and energy. In the mining sector, biodiversity is being integrated in two ways: by improving technical, economic, social and environmental productivity and competitiveness in small-scale mining, and through the sector’s involvement in the administration of the mining resources.

Some informal workshops on environmental education have taken place at botanical gardens, however Colombia recognizes the need for additional training, education, outreach and public participation.

The coordination of activities with indigenous communities and a co-management alliance has achieved remarkable results, such as the declaration of the Alto Figua Indiwasi National Natural Park, the Orito Ingi-Ande Flora Sanctuary and the National Natural Park of Yaigojé-Apaporis. Another program is in place which promotes community eco-tourism in the system of national natural parks.

A lack of investment to study in situ biodiversity conservation in natural parks compels Colombia to rely on international cooperation in this regard.

Several institutions have collaborated in the development of an ecosystem map which includes continental and marine environments under one system. A Biodiversity Information System was also created which contains approximately 1.5 million occurrence records. Moreover, through the creation of the National Network of Bird Observers, information on the diversity of birds has considerably advanced. However, progress is still needed in terms of recovery plans, mainstreaming, monitoring programs and analysis of the effectiveness of conservation actions, recognition of the economic value of biodiversity and funding (the budget for biodiversity has decreased). Additionally, in some cases, social and environmental conflicts have arisen within the local communities in protected territories.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Colombia recognizes that a national programme for tracking and monitoring biodiversity is required in order to effectively advance these processes. Also, the country considers that due consideration must be given to the human, technical and financial resources required to develop, implement and sustain this mechanism.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme