From knowledge to action: Colombia’s national ecosystem assessment

Looking down on Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, high Andes mountains of the Cordillera, Paz, Colombia. Travel holiday in Colombia. Sunrise in the mountain.

Colombia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, became the first of 11 partner countries in the National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative (NEA Initiative) at UNEP-WCMC to launch its national ecosystem assessment.

The launch of the assessment was widely attended by a diverse range of participants, including policymakers, scientists, practitioners, and indigenous peoples and local communities. The assessment was endorsed by Colombia’s Minister of Environment.

Key findings from Colombia’s ecosystem assessment

National ecosystem assessments compile data to help ensure that the full value of biodiversity is accounted for in decision-making across sectors and governance levels. Key findings from Colombia’s assessment include:

  • Trends in the loss and degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Colombia have caused, and may continue to cause, enormous environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts.
  • The primary direct drivers for the transformation and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Colombia are deforestation and habitat loss and degradation.
  • Losing wetlands, mangroves, and coral reef ecosystems will increase the vulnerability of low-income communities as these systems mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.
  • It is vital to advance knowledge of nature’s contributions to human wellbeing; many Colombians directly depend on nature to improve their quality of life, yet many of the contributions that nature makes to the country’s population are yet to be valued.
  • Colombia has one of the highest number of conflicts over environmental resources in the world; increasing challenges faced by environmental and social leaders defending the environment may result in even greater impacts of habitat loss and degradation on communities that depend most on nature.
  • Consequently, there is an urgent need to halt the loss and degradation of biodiversity in Colombia and protect nature’s contributions to the well-being of its people.

Celebrating collaboration between diverse authors

The completion of this national ecosystem assessment was a collaborative effort by 105 authors from all regions of Colombia, including indigenous peoples and local communities. More than 93,000 hours over 3.5 years were spent voluntarily gathering, analysing, and synthesising 1,500 sources of scientific and traditional knowledge.

As a result, Colombia’s national ecosystem assessment successfully presents data on the status and trends of the country’s biodiversity and future pathways to change until 2050. The assessment shows that, as a megadiverse, multi-ethnic, and multicultural country, the wellbeing of Colombia’s people is truly tied to nature.

Knowledge to action: using assessment findings

Colombia is now preparing to use the findings of the assessment to support decision-making. This is emerging as a collaborative effort between the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Colombia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Colombia and will be supported by the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network’s (BES-Net) catalytic BES Solution Fund. The BES Solution Fund will support action on priority recommendations emerging from a national ecosystem assessment.

The Humboldt Institute is currently working with Colombia’s National Committee for the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to select the top 10 key messages and issues from the national ecosystem assessment to communicate to key stakeholders across the country. With support from UNDP-Colombia, the Humboldt Institute have also developed a working plan which details a set of practical actions to support decision-making and policy processes. This includes: disseminating the assessment’s findings; ensuring ongoing communication with stakeholders that were involved in the assessment process; increasing synergies with the Convention on Biological Diversity, and; establishing methods for integrating Colombia’s assessment findings into decision-making processes.

Furthermore, the Humboldt Institute in Colombia collaborates with UNDP-Colombia to implement actions that aim to effectively and holistically address the priority issues identified in the country’s national ecosystem assessment, promoting Colombia’s efforts to create environmentally sustainable and ecologically resilient territories that support people’s wellbeing.  BES-Net will also provide support for all activities related to stakeholder engagement, including the Trialogue approach which will bring together policymakers, practitioners, knowledge-holders and key stakeholders around the assessment’s findings and recommendations.

Building capacity & fostering knowledge-exchange

The NEA Initiative is collaborating with UNDP and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) through the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) to support Colombia and 10 other countries undertaking national ecosystem assessments.

This partnership aims to strengthen the capacity of countries to conduct national ecosystem assessments and to promote their use in decision-making. BES-Net is a capacity-sharing ‘network of networks’ that promotes dialogue between science, policy and practice. This supports and complements the work of the IPBES to promote the effective management of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Financial support for the National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative was provided by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Read the summary for policymakers of the "National Ecosystem Assessment for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Colombia".

Visit the NEA Initiative website.

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