Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela with a toucan in a cloud forest of Colombia's western Andes.
A new paper published this week proves that SavingSpecies’ laser-focused approach to conservation works!
Lead author and Colombia-native Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela conducted months of intense field work in the cloud forests of Colombia’s western Andes. Her paper, published in Conservation Biology, assesses conservation measures and decisions in Colombia—measures that could mean the difference between continued-existence and likely extinction for dozens of species found no where else on the planet.
Colombia is an exceedingly biodiverse country. As the paper recounts, Colombia contains 18% of the world's bird species, and yet, composes less than 1% of the earth ice-free land area. And every year, a new species is discovered there.
From the Caribbean coast, to tropical rain forests, to montane cloud forest, Colombia has a dizzying array of geographical and ecological niches—it is no wonder that Colombia is so rich in plant and wildlife. But with this species-richness comes tough choices for conservationists, who must work with very limited resources to restore and protect habitat for endangered species.
The red-headed barbet (Eubucco bourcierii).
Natalia’s paper demonstrates that targeted conservation efforts that focus on multiple species and reconnecting isolated, fragmented forests provide the best hope to prevent extinctions.
Stuart Pimm, SavingSpecies president said: “This was an area of exceptional biodiversity—and scientists didn't fully appreciate that until we did the field work. That field work, however, revealed more than just a treasure trove of biological diversity—it also revealed a landscape that was literally being torn apart.”
Years of deforestation from logging, roads, dams, and mining—especially gold mining—have fragmented Colombia's cloud forests. Priceless hectares of forest, brimming with species, including rare endemic wildlife, were being separated from other forests, isolating the plants and animals that live in them, as well.
Natalia with her research team in Colombia.
Such isolation means fewer resources, but also less access to others of the same species to exchange genes, and fewer places for them to move to as they adjust to global warming. This is a prescription for endangerment, and ultimately, for extinction.
What the paper explains is that by using the latest science and mapping techniques, scientists can identify fragmented, isolated forests that teem with life and choose the most strategic places to restore and reconnect them to the remaining healthy forests.
"My dream is for this paper to help improve conservation of birds in Colombia. We show an example of applied conservation in the Western Andes, proving that everyone can contribute to the huge goal of saving species around the world," said Natalia.
Natalia with a toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus).