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Important Plant Areas of Colombia

Number of IPAs: Not defined yet

Colombia covers 1,141,748km2

Megadiverse Colombia

Colombia is recognised as one of the world’s megadiverse countries, supporting an incredible variety of life. With over 27,000 described plant species, it ranks second in the world for its floral diversity . This is underpinned by high ecosystem richness, driven by the country’s complex climatic and geological conditions.

Within its 1,141,748 km2 of continental land area, Colombia has an elevation which ranges from sea level to almost 5,800 m, and includes the biodiversity hotspots of the Tropical Andes and Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena. It supports numerous continentally important watersheds which feed the basins of the Amazon, Orinoco, Caribbean, Magdalena-Cauca, and Pacific.

In addition to its incredible biological diversity, Colombia is also rich in cultural diversity. This combination has led to a huge number of plant uses, with the country considered the “cradle of modern ethnobotany”.

Colombian Tropical Important Plant Areas

A methodology for the identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Colombia has been published. This draws on global IPA criteria and guidelines, with adjustments to account for the country’s rich diversity and the lack of reliable species distribution data. The identification of TIPAs in Colombia is currently being undertaken through the work of two projects.

The first approach aims to identify potential TIPAs for useful plants – species with reported human uses. Analyses are being undertaken at the national level based on extensive existing plant occurrence records and the Checklist of Useful Plants of Colombia, compiled as part of the Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia Project (UPFC). Concurrently, fieldwork is being undertaken in three pilot study areas. This aims to evaluate how local plant knowledge and use can complement large-scale conservation prioritisation analyses, such as TIPAs identification, to achieve conservation outcomes which are beneficial for people and nature.

The second TIPAs approach in Colombia focuses on the high-elevation páramo ecosystem to identify TIPAs for Espeletia (Asteraceae). This is a genus of plants that contains keystone species endemic to high-elevation mountains of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador but are increasingly threatened by expanding agricultural development and climate change.