Information file: 404

From Paramo Delimitation to Zoning and Monitoring the High Mountain

The case of the paramo complex Guantiva-La Rusia

Germán Corzo ▶ Diego Córdoba ▶
Nicolai Ciontescu ▶ Hernando García ▶ Paola Isaacs ▶

Even after delimiting 21 paramo complexes in Colombia, paramo conservation is not ensured. Paramos must be integrated into the surrounding territory, and they should be understood as interdependents ecosystems that are not self-sustainable biogeographical islands.

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As part of conserving paramos and their associated ecosystem services, these ecosystems have been delimited in detail. Yet these endeavors are insufficient for the protection of the ecosystems, for processes of integrated biodiversity management in broader contexts that include ecosystem gradients such as the high mountain are yet to be created.

With this purpose, the Humboldt Institute and the Ministry of Environment present a methodological proposal that uses as a case study the paramo complex Guantiva-La Rusia and includes variables of “status” and “pressure” that represent the conservation status and anthropic threats of the ecosystems. Based on this, guidelines for management, such as social and institutional responses, are formulated for evaluation, feedback, and monitoring to determine their effectiveness.

The hypothesis for high mountain integrity at a semi-detailed scale (1:100,000) is generated based on landscape metrics and ecological connectivity. This is how paramos are integrated with surrounding ecosystems and an ecological structure is ensured to guarantee ecosystem functionality and the offer of ecosystem services. At this point more detailed information may be generated based on developed hypotheses.

Posteriorly, using a land covers analysis, the conservation status of involved ecosystems is estimated at a 1:25,000 scale. Therefore the status of the paramo complex is determined by indicators of composition (total area of the fragment, area and shape of the nucleus) and configuration (distance between fragments) according to the landscape matrix.

The biophysical conditions of surrounding areas and the access that human populations have to natural remnants represent an opportunity for extracting natural resources and thus altering the natural system. In this sense, variables that allow for the identification of pressures in those areas where threats to ecological processes exist must be incorporated. Consequently, indicators of intensity of use (distance to roads and settlements, land use types, and fragmentation) and biophysical vulnerability (fertility and slope) are included in order to evaluate pressures on the ecosystem.

Finally, ecological integrity is estimated based on the status of the fragment and anthropic pressures or human impact. This result leads to the formulation of management guidelines for the areas assessed, using as a framework the established conservation dimensions proposed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (preservation, restoration, and sustainable use) and the particular governance norms of Colombia.


Input Process Subproduct Product

Experimental design

It would be necessary to implement zonification and corroborate formulated integrated management guidelines in the field, as well as generate response indicators to monitor biodiversity under the supposition that ecosystem services are generated in a greater amount when there is a flux of matter, energy, and information in comparison to isolated ecosystems.

Proposal for the integrated management of biodiversity for the High Mountain in the complex Guantiva - La Rusia

Case study ▶




Guantiva - La Rusia was the paramo complex selected due to its multiple social-ecological conflicts (conservation, agricultural uses and mining), the forms in which the territory is used, and the particularity of its spatial configuration of two slopes with climatic differences. With approximately 120,000 ha, this complex was one of the 21 complexes delimited by the Humboldt Institute. In this study, about 130,000 of key surrounding areas were assessed in terms of ecosystem connectivity. It was evidenced that at least a third of the total extension of the complex is under good natural conditions and low anthropic pressure (human footprint low and very low) and additionally counts with guidelines for ecosystem preservation and protection. 21 % of the area is in categories of restoration (medium and high human footprint). In these areas practices should seek the recovery of original ecosystem conditions. The remaining 50 % should be destined for processes of rehabilitation, recovery, conversion of productive systems and landscape management tools so that ecosystem functionality and the supply of ecosystem services may be improved.

Preservation areas

Those with high ecological integrity and low levels of threat. Will be used as conservation nodes to ensure the survival of biodiversity and flow of ecosystem services. There may be an “intangible” form that should not be transformed by any activity (inside delimited paramo) and a “primitive” form outside the delimited paramo.

Protection areas

Those with high ecological integrity but under growing anthropic threat. In such areas strategies for control of threats will predominate strictly inside paramos and as a proposal outside of the delimited paramo.

Areas of passive restoration

Those with intermediate level of ecological integrity but with low or null anthropic footprint. They are near areas of protection and still maintain most ecosystem services, being at a pre-disturbance status inside the paramo and ensuring functionality outside ot these ecosystems through tools such as fragment isolation.

Areas of active restoration

Those with low levels of ecological integrity and low or medium anthropic footprint. In these areas there are changes in the use of the land, enrichment and intervention of zones inside the paramo through landscape management tools outside the paramo, unsustainable uses are limited, and strategies of payment of ecosystem services are encouraged by conservation agreements. Such areas must be used as biodiversity connectors and ecological and ecosystem services corridors.

Rehabilitation areas

Those with low and medium levels of ecological integrity but with intermediate anthropic footprint. These areas depend on levels of transformation in terms of stresses and disturbances. In these areas the goal is to recover ecosystem functionality urgently for the zones inside of the delimited paramo and in an opportune manner for those outside.

Productive systems reconversion areas

Those with intermediate levels of ecological integrity but high anthropic footprints. These are areas destined to the reconversion of unsustainable productive systems and they suppose processes of ecological planning for connectivity according to levels of transformation. At least those areas inside the paramo are preponderant in the recovery of ecosystem services.

Areas of recovery

Those with low levels of ecological integrity and high anthropic footprint. These areas have been submitted to high levels of degradation where some ecosystem services and landscape functionality are sought to be recovered. For the zones both outside and inside paramos, processes need interventions of greater complexity, but with a relative urgency in those that are located inside the paramo.

Ecological integrity for the paramo complex Guantiva-La Rusia




The conservation of the biodiversity of the high mountain and the integrated management of its ecosystem services, of which we depend on as a human society, includes multiple mechanisms and tools. Here some guidelines are presented, yet there are other options that are more broad and innovative. Therefore there is the opportunity to consolidate a science-policy interphase that aims towards human well-being based on biodiversity and its ecosystem services in a period of reconciliation.


Paramos Communities
Complementary conservation strategies Sinap