Biological Diversity in Paramo Ecosystems

Heidi Pérez-MorenoInstituto Alexander von Humboldt César MarínInstituto Alexander von Humboldt Olga LeónInstituto Alexander von Humboldt

To increase existing knowledge about an ecosystem that is currently threatened, it is essential to consolidate information on paramo species and publish biological data online.

Paramos are ecosystems with particular physical and biological features that enable animal and plant communities with large numbers of

endemic species to exist. These ecosystems are considered continental biological archipelagoes because they are distributed along the humid equatorial Andes in a discontinuous fashion1. 50% of the paramos in the world are in Colombia; these ecosystems cover 2.5% of the Colombian territory, in 140 discrete units and 36 complexes classified by biogeographic criteria2.

Despite their role in regulating approximately 70% of the water in the country, the natural landscapes of the paramos are being severely transformed. These changes have irreversible effects on the biodiversity and ecosystem services offered by paramo ecosystems. In this scenario, collecting information on species and other ecosystem characteristics, implementing monitoring programs, and strengthening thematic networks are essential elements that support decision-making in biodiversity management. The information generated is also important in climate change situations since the usual low temperatures of these ecosystems may change and thus affect the species that are adapted or endemic to paramos2, 3


One of the goals of the contract between Fondo Adaptación and the Humboldt Institute in the formulation of criteria to delimit paramo ecosystems was to characterize four biological groups that are indicators of environmental health (plants, birds, amphibians, and arthropods). Such endeavor was accomplished with 14 research groups in 85 localities of 18 paramo complexes. With the data obtained, possible new species were reported, knowledge regarding species distribution ranges was expanded, and the number of free and open-access biological records for Colombian paramos was augmented. Such is the case for the complex Los Picachos, for which the first biological dataset of the studied groups was obtained. Similarly, about 90% of data obtained for the complexes Tota-Mamapacha-Bijagual, Almorzadero, Sonsón, Guantiva-La Rusia, Las Hermosas, Citará, and Doña Juana were new contributions.

The results of the project, regarding the four taxonomic groups that were studied and other additional groups that were sampled, in comparison with the records available in SiB Colombia, show that vascular plants are better represented than amphibians and mammals. On the other hand, the lack of records for groups that are representative of paramos, such as mosses, liverworts, fungi, lichens, and, surprisingly, invertebrates, is concerning.

Nevertheless, the information generated in this project broadly overcomes occurrence data in paramos that was previously available in open-data resources such as SiB Colombia. These results constitute an information baseline for paramos that is very useful for monitoring diversity, and it is essential to promote conservation strategies and begin ecological restoration practices in locations that have been altered.

Increases in the number of biological records published in SiB due to the contributions of the project Fondo Adaptación.