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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Implementation of essential biodiversity variables for biodiversity assessment and monitoring at the subnational level in Colombia

PI: Maria Londoño-Murcia (, Instituto de Investigacion en Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt (Humboldt Institute), and co-PI Jesús Anaya, Universidad de Medellín, Colombia
U.S. Partner: Victor Gutierrez-Velez, Temple University
Project dates: December 2018 - December 2020

Project Overview

7-275_proposal photo
Photo courtesy of Dr. Londoño-Murcia 
The current global biodiversity crisis requires improvement of global concerted efforts to monitor the status of biodiversity over time. The essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) framework has stimulated progress to harmonize biodiversity monitoring globally. Colombia is a hotspot of biological diversity, which support environmental goods and services. The signing of the peace agreement in 2016 has brought out new environmental challenges - areas that used to be isolated from anthropogenic intervention are currently facing pressure from the expansion of deforestation and agriculture. Biodiversity and environmental services in these areas are expected to decline, but these trends are poorly assessed and understood.

The overall goal of this project is to advance the implementation of the EBV framework for decision making in Colombia. To achieve this, the project team will aim to: (1) identify necessities and priorities of information (relevant EBV) for decision making in Tropical Dry Forest (TDR) ecosystem through a participatory process that empower local communities and associations to identify and monitor key natural resources for the sustainability of their livelihoods; (2) evaluate the effectiveness of EBVs to characterize biodiversity at the ecosystem levels by exploring and defining relations between Remote Sensing (RS) / Earth Observation, and EBVs; (3) validate that different EBVs provide meaningful information relevant to the local ecosystem patterns and process by corroborating them with national observation data and expert criteria; and (4) effectively communicate EBV products through a decision support system web platform so that they can be use in political instruments such as management programs and land use planning process. Because needs and priorities at subnational scales are not taken into account in the current USG-supported partner’s project, USG partner is anticipated to integrate this project’s results with the tools, datasets, training and workshop events related to the decision support system (DSS) that is being implemented. The scientific merit of this project will be to implement the EBV framework with a bottom-up perspective through a participatory process that validates and recognize EBV by Colombian experts and decision making stakeholders. EBV available through the project could be use by land use planning exercises at municipality and state scale.

In terms of anticipated development impacts, at a local level, the project is anticipated to play a key role in empowering local communities and associations, so they can identify and monitor key natural resources for the sustainability of their livelihoods. At a regional level, the team will develop EBV products that complement available information for policy instruments such as watershed management programs (POMCAs), land use planning (POTs) and territorial development planning (PDTs). At the national level, the project is expected to enhance the ability of Colombian research institutions to monitor biodiversity in post-conflict scenario in Colombia. The project is anticipated to enhance the capacity of USAID programs in Colombia to assess their impact in the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services as this activity will be integrated with USAID’s ongoing program “Riqueza Natural” in the two study areas. At the international level, this research project is anticipated to serve as an example of the concept for the operationalization of EBVs. As an active member of GEOBON, the country has its own national node (Colombia BON), and is therefore a good case study to define the strengths and weaknesses of this framework for megadiverse countries, what information can be inferred at the ecosystem level, and how it can be used for decision making processes.

Project updates

During the March-June 2019 reporting period, Dr. Londoño-Murcia reported that for planned project activities 1.1. and 1.2. (diagramming the two study areas and creating a detailed proposal for EBV monitoring), she and her team had identified potential indicators and categorized them into Pressure, State, Benefits, or Responses. To provide the national and global perspectives, these indicators were each related to a sustainable development goal (SDG) and its specific goals. Eleven SDGs are related with these indicators, goal 1: no poverty; goal 2: zero hunger; goal 3: good health and well-being; goal 6: clean water and sanitation; goal 7: affordable and clean energy; goal 8: decent work and economic growth; goal 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure; goal 12: responsible consumption and production; goal 13: climate action; goal 15: life on land; and goal 16: peace, justice and strong institutions. From these, the PEER team will prioritize some as key for the monitoring of these goals. Essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) were highlighted. The team included a summary of a previous analysis done based on questions related with wellness and people relation with biodiversity from 62 interviews made as part of the passive monitoring on a previous project in the area. The researchers also carried out a preliminary exercise to group stakeholders into four categories: international cooperation, private sector, public sector, and civil society. Three narratives were also built for the Valledupar area, related to (1) water, soil, and climatic regulation; (2) extractive and productive activities (inside the national park Los Besotes and outside); and (3) urban growth, roads, and tourism.

For activities 2.1 (´╗┐temporal characterization of study area) and 2.2 (calculation of functional EBVs using global data sets), the team conducted the analysis proposed in the first technical document for WP2, activity 2.1 with some variations in the analysis of the data. Through this they generated the biogeographical units defined by the National Ecosystem Map and the characterization of anthropogenic processes related to ecosystem changes. The team conducted a climatic characterization using a shape-based clustering of time series data of evapotranspiration, precipitation, and the enhanced vegetation index to identify humid and dry patterns in the study area. The resulting groups were compared with another clustering approach based on the identification of breaks in trend and seasonal components of the time series inside each anthropogenic process mapped. The analysis was performed using data from the Earth Data Lab provided by the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry to Jaime Burbano Girón during his two-week internship during April and May in Jena (Germany). Additionally, the area of study was characterized in terms of disturbances of fires, floods, and erosion processes, and land attributes, slope, geoforms, and soils.
For the activity involving calculation of functional EBVs using global data sets, the researchers obtained data for processing time series of functional variables selected (net primary productivity, evapotranspiration, leaf area index, fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation, and vegetation indices for phenology) and aligned them pixel by pixel to the study area. The team defined the analysis method to explore the relationship among the functional variables using a structure-based dissimilarity clustering approach. Additionally, the project team identified a planned analysis for validating the clustering approach employed to characterize the climatic patterns and the functional approach. Due to difficulties with computational resources, this analysis could not be completed during the reporting period. Further results will be improved by this validation. 

7-275 Londono workshop7-275 Londono workshop2

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