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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Incorporating relationships between ecosystem integrity and people’s livelihoods for conservation action planning in Tropical Dry Forest

PI: Susana Rodríguez-Buriticá (, Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, in partnership with Universidad Nacional de Colombia
U.S. Partner: Andrew Hansen, Montana State University
Project Dates: January 2020 - June 2021

Project Overview:
8-221_Dry forest group 
Dry forest group. Photo credit:  Instituto Humboldt 
Photo credit: Felipe Villegas 
Despite recent improvements in the availability of basic ecological information on Tropical Dry Forest (TDF) remnants in Colombia, high-impact conservation and sustainable land management strategies are still elusive. This is in part due to the lack of a comprehensive narrative connecting our ecological knowledge with the economic consequences of TDF degradation. This project will address two major knowledge gaps about TDF in Colombia. First, current basic research does not have a good characterization of TDF ecological degradation; specifically, forest degradation in terms of attributes that could be relevant for ecosystem services (ES) provision. Second, despite previous study of the ecological and socioeconomic aspects of TDF, no previous effort has aimed to integrate available information to produce a comprehensive understanding of the role of TDF for local communities, as well as the cost-benefits associated with TDF degradation and loss. Analyses of information have been limited by project-specific commitments and fall short in using sophisticated analytical tools to construct such a narrative. By translating the ecological impacts of TDF degradation on ES and cost-benefit valuations, this PEER team aims to provide powerful tools to negotiate TDF protection and restoration at the local levels.

The goal of the project is to integrate scalable information from contrasting TDF territories with nationwide integrity indicators and to improve models for ES supply dynamics and their economic assessments. Site-specific information for the project will come from two large current TDF projects supported by other sponsors that have explored the links between (1) multi-level biodiversity indicators and TDF degradation in nine watersheds and (2) TDF degradation, ecosystem processes, and ES supply in four watersheds, with only two with socioeconomic information. Both projects are based on forest ecological condition assessments that do not incorporate land management history and only consider forest extent, not forest structure or overall integrity.   PI Dr. Rodríguez and her PEER team will (1) evaluate the congruence between forest degradation, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning and ES under contrasting socioecological contexts; (2) assess the role of landscape management history on the dynamic of forest and ecosystem degradation; and (3) use ecosystem valuation and cost-benefit analyses to assess relationships among alternative management practices. This PEER-supported project will update analyses and models to improve data integration, scalability, and applicability of results to other TDF contexts by using sub-products from several ongoing U.S. Government-funded projects that will improve landscape and forest degradation assessments, thereby generating stronger evidence-based, high-impact products with nationwide pertinence.

Project updates:
During the first quarter of 2020, the team met with potential collaborators to compile useful information about dry tropical forests in Colombia and ran the first round of analyses on forest degradation. The second major activity focused on advancing characterization of forest degradation using remote sensing information (Module 1). For this purpose, a database was consolidated with 29 variables that summarized changes between 2000 and 2015 of human pressure and climatic and ecological condition of close to 300 forest patches across Colombia. With this information the PEER team estimated clusters based on groups of variables (climatic variables, pressure variables, forest condition variables, ecosystem functioning variables) and estimated whether these clusters had any correspondence to each other and at which scale. The team expected to see correspondence between climatic-defined clusters with forest condition clusters as climate is one of the key drivers of DTF diversity variation. In addition, the team expected to find at least some correspondence between human pressure clusters and forest condition clusters as we expect forest condition will be affected by the type and intensity of human pressure, provided that DTF in Colombia are located in highly populated areas with extensive agriculture and cattle ranching. Overall,  a strong correspondence was found between climatic-clusters and forest condition clusters but at regional scale. consistent with previous results suggesting that climatic variation is indeed one of the main drivers of DTF diversity variation. The team found marginal correspondence between natural regions and pressure clusters indicating that human activities developed differently across regions, which agrees with expectation based on history of regional development in Colombia. The lack of correspondence between pressure and forest conditions groups suggests that forest degradation might be extremely idiosyncratic or at least that with the variables the team have included they are unable to capture the spatial correspondence between human pressure and forest degradation. The PEER team will continue developing this line of analyses by including other pressure variables and exploring a formal classification of forest degradation types. Results from these analyses will be part of the second volume of the book “Dry Tropical Forest” that it’s been edited by the editorial house at the Humboldt Institute. The first volume has been a key reference supporting several of the national conservation policies regarding Dry Tropical forest in Colombia. The PEER team hope the second volume have similar impacts.

In March 2020, NAS and USAID PEER representatives conducted PEER site visits. In addition to this presentation, one technical presentation was given at the Dry Tropical Forest meeting of the Dry Tropical Forests Monitoring Network -BSTRed-Col- (March 11 to 14th at Garzon, Tolima). The objective of the forum was to discuss the DTF research agenda and define short, middle and long-term goals for the network.  As a new member of the network, PI Dr. Rodriguez  had the opportunityto present the PEER-Project to members of the network.  

Potential Development impacts:
The first series of analyses conducted to characterized DTF degradation dynamics will be summarized in a chapter of the upcoming book about Dry Tropical Forest. The objective of the chapter is to present and discuss the factors influencing biodiversity response to forest degradation. The first round of analyses implied conducting a series of hierarchical clustering analyses with climatic, pressure, and condition variables and explore the correspondence among resulting clusters. In conclusion, clusters detected with climatic variables have a high level of correspondence with DTF natural regions, which agrees with previous findings. On the other hand, dynamic of pressure variables (dynamics on landscape fragmentation, distance to roads, distance to settlements, land cover dynamics) showed a smaller-scale dynamic suggests more local drives of forest degradation. Similarly, forest condition had little correspondence with pressure dynamics suggesting that there could be other drivers not considered in the study that are explaining the differences in forest condition. Currently the chapter is under construction, but the analyses have been finalized. The chapter will be written in collaboration with Nelly Rodriguez an assistant professor at the National University of Colombia, and PEER-Project collaborator (see above). The proposed timeline for the book to be released is at the end of the year. This book is the second volume of a previous book devoted to describe and discuss the DTF status in Colombia colombia
As a result of the PI's participation in the Dry Tropical Forest Monitoring Network (BSTRed-Col), products developed during this PEER project are anticipated to have direct impacts on DTF research and DTF conservation. Through collaborative validation of forest degradation classifications, this project will help identify the less degraded DTF with major natural regions. This result is relevant to inform DTF conservation and restoration plans.
Twitter account: @inst_humboldt

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