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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.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme