Despite the important assortment of available information about the forests of Colombia, there are many information gaps in subjects that are relevant to their appropriate management: invasive species, genetic aspects, ecological studies in transformation scenarios, and approaches to Colombia's post-conflict.
Forests provide important ecosystem services such as the production of wood, seeds, roots, fruits, products of animal origin (eggs, leather, bush meat, etc.)
, and other services linked to human well-being. Colombia, as a country that has natural forests in more than 50% of its continental territory and thus all its related biological and cultural diversity, needs to develop research in order to gather information that allows for the appropriate conservation and management of forests. Taking this into consideration, the scientific literature about Colombian forests published between 1917 and 2014 was analyzed. This revision showed that most documents research flora and fauna composition, whereas landscape-level studies are lacking.
In the last two decades scientific production has significantly increased, accordingly to the application of local, national, and international politics and programs of forest biodiversity conservation. The Andean region has been the most studied area in the majority of aspects, probably due to better accessibility, close location of important research centers, and better funding.
Nevertheless, there is a surprising lack of information about certain biological groups of interest, such as fungi, and there is very little research developed at a gene scale, despite its importance in understanding the ecology of forests. Also, it must be highlighted that only 25% of the analyzed scientific publications engage the subject of drivers of loss of biodiversity, and most only consider changes in soil use. In addition, the studies about invasive species, impacts of the armed conflict, species exploitation effects, and fires are very few, even in areas where these are permanent threats.
Two more aspects must be emphasized. The first is that, although there is a generalized perception of scientific information only being available to users with academic credentials, most of the revised documents are of free and open access (63%). Secondly, a great number of the documents do not include clear, feasible, and direct advice about forest use and management, so implementing a research initiative to guarantee the appropriate management of forest resources in the country does not seem viable in practice.
In conclusion, integrated and synthetic documents that collect the scientific knowledge present in articles and books must be produced. They should also connect and interpret the data in settings of real planning and decision-making. Likewise, it is crucial for the country to advance in the construction of a scientific agenda that, after identifying information gaps, promotes new research about forests. This research should be focused on biodiversity functioning, its vulnerability towards climate change and its relation with human well-being at different levels.