Friday, May 3, 2013

C for Colombia

With coastlines on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Andean mountains, and Amazon basins, Colombia’s landscapes are vast and vastly diverse. Here, where the Pacific, Amazonian, Caribbean, and Orinoquian lowland regions meet, the landscapes are a patchwork of mangroves, snow-capped peaks, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, rainforests, dry forests, cloud forests, and other habitats. While world-renowned for its richness in bird species, Colombia also has an extraordinary diversity of amphibians and mammals, as well as orchids and butterflies.

Colombia became a member of the iBOL family at the end of 2011. It is the the second most biodiverse country in the world only topped by Brazil. It is perhaps the country with the most bird species in the world. 

However, human induced deforestation has already substantially changed the Andean landscape in Colombia. It is also linked to the conversion of lowland tropical forests to palm oil plantations. However, compared to neighboring countries rates of deforestation in Colombia are still relatively low. Other challenges are caused by natural factors such as the geological instability related to Colombia's position along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Colombia has 15 major volcanoes, the eruptions of which have on occasion resulted in substantial loss of life. Geological faults that have caused numerous devastating earthquakes. Heavy floods both in mountainous areas and in low-lying watersheds and coastal regions regularly occur during the rainy seasons with varying rainfall intensities due to the El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation.

Reason enough to engage in a global DNA Barcoding program such as iBOL but this is certainly not the only initiative to catalog the country's life.

Colombian researchers have been part of DNA Barcoding studies e.g. on amphibians, mosquitoes, or plants. They are leads of important initiatives to help build the global library of DNA Barcodes (e.g. ArBOL, ColdCode). It is estimated that Colombia might be the home to 150,000 to 200,000 species. About 1000 of them are barcoded (mostly lepidoptera, amphibians, and birds). A lot left to do but I am sure Colombia will catch up very quickly.

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