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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 - August 2022
Twitter account: @inst_humboldt
Facebook: Instituto Humboldt 

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 Dry Tropical Forest (DTF) 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 DTF degradation. This project will address two major knowledge gaps about DTF in Colombia. First, current basic research does not have a good characterization of DTF 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 DTF, no previous effort has aimed to integrate available information to produce a comprehensive understanding of the role of DTF for local communities, as well as the cost-benefits associated with DTF 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 DTF degradation on ES and cost-benefit valuations, this PEER team aims to provide powerful tools to negotiate DTF protection and restoration at the local levels.

The goal of the project is to integrate scalable information from contrasting DTF 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 DTF projects supported by other sponsors that have explored the links between (1) multi-level biodiversity indicators and DTF degradation in nine watersheds and (2) DTF 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 DTF 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 activity updates

During April-June 2022 reporting period, the team continued advancing their three objectives, established new collaborations and worked on the manuscript. 
1) For the first objective, which is to integrate biodiversity and remote sensing information to explore the congruence between different metrics of forest degradation, the team conducted the analyses for remote sensing indicator congruence with ground presence records using three indicators: the forest structural condition index (SCI -Hansen et al 2019), the legacy-adjusted human footprint index for Colombia (LHFI -Correa et al. 2019), the global forest landscape integrity index (FLII -Grantham et al. 2021) and the Colombian version of the forest landscape integrity index (Col-FLII -this project own estimations).  
2) For the second objective, which is to explore land use management practices and incorporate those on analyses of DTF degradation, the team finished the Structural Equation Modelling for all focal areas and concluded that local land management practice can impact forest integrity.
3) For the third objective, which is to produce a series of ecosystem provision model reflecting forest state at different socio-economic-political context at the national level, the team finished the InVest scenario analyses and finalized the estimations of % change on water provision for different scenarios, which is required to run the economic valuation analyses.
4) The project team continued integrating all the information to present a complete narrative regarding the impact of degradation on dry tropical forest territories. The team also established that local management practices at the property level matter and affect forest condition  and that reforestation is important to restore provision of hydric ecosystem services.  In addition , outreach activities activities have been ongoing as well,  and include academic meetings with five universities in the northern part of the country, and three talks at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation meeting held  July, 2022.

With the project set to conclude by the end of August 2022, the team will be working on completing the first draft of the integrative paper and the communication piece that goes along with it. In addition, the team will be conducting several outreach activities which include: several events with Caribbean university to present results and find potential collaboration areas, presenting at the ATBC meeting the results of the project, finalizing field campaigns in Tolima, and finalizing data and publications. 

Potential development impacts

Since the beginning of the project the team published a peer-review publication that provides an integrative view of the impact and challenges around dry tropical forest degradation in Colombia. The team have advanced on creating a comprehensive database around biodiversity data from DTF projects in which the Humboldt Institute has participated, a dataset of environmental variables, many derived in collaboration with our US-Partners from the DTF remnants, a comprehensive dataset of socio-economic information to explore DTF management. All these datasets have the potential to be the baseline of further DTF studies, especially regarding DTF transition towards sustainable production and forest management. PEER project  PI notes, that they have designed an analytical workflow to work with the last dataset in the construction of SEM models. This approach could be use in other Humboldt projects or in other areas given that their dataset covers all municipalities of Colombia.  The team consolidated a national analysis on DTF response to anthropogenic pressures that shed light on spatial-temporal processes that should be considered during DTF restoration and management. The project team so far have recommended on this product, to focus on area that has recently change their indirect pressures (road construction) to minimized further degradation of DTF remnants. This product is expected, as the first volume of the same series on Dry Tropical Forest, to be a high impact product for DTF management. In addition, during 2021 year period, the team consolidated three sets of scripts that will improve biodiversity, SE modelling and covariate estimations in any area in Colombia, not only in DTF areas.  During the team's visit to several Regional Environmental Authorities, they detected the need of information regarding regionally specific management recommendation in DTF territories. This project has the potential to deliver such information by combining purely analyses on ecological condition in DTF territories, key areas providing some ecosystem services, and specific aspects to work with local communities regarding their production practices. 

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