The natural ecosystems in the Colombian Orinoco Basin are in danger

March 12, 2013
This image shows a view from the Orinoco river basin. Credit: Ana M. Aldana

The Orinoco River flows from the Andes in Colombia to the Atlantic in Venezuela. The area of the basin includes landscapes of the Andes, plains of the Llanos and the Guiana shield. Orinoco's tributary rivers form a basin considered to be the 3rd most important river system on the planet, and one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world.

Colombia has shown a strong commitment to the achievement of the 's 2010 biodiversity target, by promoting the conservation of at least 10% of its . Protected Area categories in Colombia are undergoing a standardization process that should enhance the country's capacity to protect its ecosystems. It has been examined how the legislation and the civil society's initiatives help in the conservation of natural ecosystems in the Colombian Orinoco Basin.

Just recently the Ministry of Environment passed a decree to standardize the Protected Area categories and to organize the National System of Protected Areas. More than 100 protected areas and more than 100 indigenous reserves have been established in the Colombian Orinoco Basin over the last six decades. However, the only strictly protected areas in Colombia are the National Natural Parks System Areas, which protect only 10% of the area of natural ecosystems and less than 50% of the natural ecosystems in the Basin. Indigenous Reserves help significantly in the conservation of the natural ecosystems in the Basin, but are not a Protected Area category, making it difficult for to assist with natural conservation in Colombia.

This image shows a view from the Orinoco river basin. Credit: Ana M. Aldana

Some areas in the Llanos eco-region have lost up to 1/4 of their cover in the last decade. The natural have been destroyed at an annual rate of more than 1,000 km² and converted to pastures and . Some areas have management problems, such as the lack of control on the inside the parks and the unsustainable use of the resources. Burning occurs more often in the natural savannas inside Indigenous Reserves than in private ranches. Private ranches dedicated to cattle farming on native vegetation tend to burn less often than other areas in this region. This might be a good indicator of the high-quality management capacity of private landowners.

Most of the lands owned and managed by indigenous people are still in a very good ecological condition, based on the percentage of natural ecosystems they hold, especially compared to the National System of . Making the Indigenous Reserves a Protected Area category would help greatly with the conservation of the Colombian Orinoco Basin, but this is a significant national debate, with a lot of controversy around it.

Although the protected area has almost doubled, ecosystem protection does not increase proportionally, which is a sign of the lack of planning and management capacities of the regional and local governments that established most of these areas. Urgent actions should be taken to ensure protection of the natural ecosystems of high conservation value, as these may be significantly endangered. It is possible that more than 22,350 km² of natural savannas will be lost over the next 10 years, and effective counter measures are necessary now to prevent losing these biodiversity hotspots forever.

Explore further: Protected areas successfully prevent deforestation in Amazon rainforest

More information: Aldana AM, Mitchley J (2013) Protected Areas legislation and the conservation of the Colombian Orinoco Basin natural ecosystems. Nature Conservation 4: 15, doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.4.3682

Related Stories

Amazon freshwater ecosystems found vulnerable to degradation

February 4, 2013

A study published in Conservation Letters this week found that freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. River, lake and wetland ecosystems—encompassing approximately one-fifth ...

Recommended for you

Genome study offers clues about history of big cats

July 21, 2017

(Phys.org)—A large international team of researchers has conducted a genetic analysis and comparison of the world's biggest cats to learn more about their history. In their paper published on the open source site Science ...

Researchers discover mice speak similarly to humans

July 21, 2017

Grasshopper mice (genus Onychomys), rodents known for their remarkably loud call, produce audible vocalizations in the same way that humans speak and wolves howl, according to new research published in Proceedings of the ...

Researchers discover biological hydraulic system in tuna fins

July 20, 2017

Cutting through the ocean like a jet through the sky, giant bluefin tuna are built for performance, endurance and speed. Just as the fastest planes have carefully positioned wings and tail flaps to ensure precision maneuverability ...

Researchers discover how CRISPR proteins find their target

July 20, 2017

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered how Cas1-Cas2, the proteins responsible for the ability of the CRISPR immune system in bacteria to adapt to new viral infections, identify the site in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.