Contact Us  |  Search  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us For Applicants For Grant Recipients Funded Projects Email Updates
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 credit:  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

7-275 Londono workshop
Workshop participants. December 11-12, 2019, Colombia. Photo credit: Dr. Maria Londoño

During the first year of the PEER project, the team developed all the activities related to the societal objectives. They identified local stakeholders and with their participation highlighted EBVs useful for evaluating the success of their territorial management actions on the state of biodiversity. The team also proposed a monitoring scheme with local stakeholders for the EBVs identified and started searching for financial opportunities for its implementation.

In terms of the scientific objectives, the team completed general characterization of the study area using remote sensing products, and produced a functional outlook using MODIS data, with these analyses the team identified key breaking points where functional dynamics had changed, and localized those braking points in time and space. The team is continuing  data analysis from radar products derived from satellites and drones, and is preparing  inputs for assessing EBV in a multiscale approach.

In terms of  political objectives, the team  made solid contacts with sub-national and international stakeholders who are interested in following the team's progress and using their results in their management and research objectives. The research team remains in constant communication with their U.S. partner  Victor Gutierrez and his team at Temple University, following the progress of his NASA-funded project and this PEER project, and future activity planning was conducted for the upcoming year for purposes of integrating outputs.

During the last quarter of 2019, the team has been working on drafting the monitoring protocol which will be delivered in two formats: (1) as a consulting manual for the communities, decision makers and the academy, and (2) as a brochure specifically designed for the communities in the field. This protocol is based on seven steps of a monitoring cycle previously developed with the communities, which include: 1) identifying a question and addressing it, 2) going into the field and data collection, 3) organizing and submission of information, 4) data analysis and data processing, 5) results' dissemination, 6) management actions, 7) evaluation and debate.

During December 11-12, 2019, the team participated in a workshop with the community of Maria La Baja - Paso el Medio, La Suprema, Palo Altico, San Jacinto, community councils of San Cristobal and Paraiso where they applied the methodology implemented for the Regional Biodiversity Assessments in order to identify socio-ecological relations in the area. This workshop was part of the implementation of a project between Colombia, Brazil and Argentina oriented to develop a collaborative research project about socio-ecological resilience between local communities, Humboldt Institute and Sustainable development corporation (CDS).

Potential development Impacts

(1) Enhanced ability of Colombian institutions to monitor biodiversity: two products of this PEER project, namely:  (1) identification of relevant EBVs for communities and decision making, and (2) evaluation of the effectiveness of EBVs to characterize biodiversity, will be applied by the upcoming projects of Humboldt Institute in association with program Riqueza Natural, and Protected Areas Managers in order to: a) enhance the monitoring programs of the dry-forest ecosystems, b) develop biodiversity indicators needed by regional environmental authorities in their reporting to national government. In this process, the resolution 0667 emitted by the Ministry of Environment the 27th of April 2016, where a set of minimum biodiversity indicators was established will be reviewed and a set of new indicators will be developed. Also, the methodology developed  for identifying EBV and its monitoring schemes, is being used to generate recommendations to the national government and regional environmental authorities for biodiversity monitoring in Paramo ecosystems. In order to deliver in time and update the  information about EBV and biodiversity indicators, in partnership with the U.S. partner, the PEER team is advancing  the development of a decision support system, which incorporates and analyzes in situ remote sensing data and makes results available for regional environmental government and researchers. This decision support system, called BioTablero, is being developed using open license and its access is also free and open through: Currently, the team are sharing the information about ecosystem structure for three vulnerable ecosystems: tropical dry forests, paramos, and wetlands, highlighting the extent of transformed and natural land cover remaining in each of them, and their representation in the protected areas. In 2020, the team we will include information on forest change and ecosystem function. Three scientific publications are under its way regarding the development of the decision support system.

(2) Empowerment of local communities: the project team secured  active participation and commitment of three local communities to implement monitoring projects developed during the first year of the project. The team is supporting these communities in their search for additional financial support to achieve a complete implementation. Local stakeholders broadened their understanding of the importance of having biodiversity information for the sustainable development of their region. A survey was conducted in order to capture the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) of the people.  
Research outputs:

The results of efforts conducted during the first year of the PEER project will be disseminated through three main web-pages: 
7-275 Londono workshop7-275 Londono workshop2

Back to PEER Cycle 7 Grant Recipients