PARAMO - Provisioning of ecosystem services And cultuRAl values in the MOntane tropics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Animal and Plant Sciences

Abstract

The tropics harbour more species than anywhere else on Earth. This biodiversity supports a number of ecosystem services -- benefits that humankind derives from the natural environment, including water, nutrient-rich soils and pest-control by predatory birds and insects -- that are essential for human well-being, and it also underpins many cultural attachments that people have with nature. However, the disturbance of natural habitats and their conversion for other uses, such as farming, are driving a global extinction crisis. This project takes an innovative approach to understand the links between biodiversity and ecosystem services and cultural provision using the Colombian Andes as a case study.

The Colombian Andes are one of the most biodiversity rich places on Earth, their soils contain carbon-rich peats, ecosystem services are derived for the majority of Colombia's human population, and these are rich in cultural values on both a personal and community level. In spite of this tremendous wealth, hostilities in Colombia have long hampered research to understand eco-cultural relationships. The reduction in hostilities creates a policy window to impact the development of a sustainable bioeconomy, i.e. the economic exploitation of its biological resources, underpinned by Colombia's high biodiversity. There are inherent environmental and cultural risks of capitalising upon biodiversity, which could drive negative outcomes for conservation or society. Our multidisciplinary programme will answer the major, unanswered question of how best to incorporate and optimise the combination of biodiversity, ecosystem service, and cultural values within natural resource management. In doing so, we will transform the role of cultural heritage and human-environmental experiential knowledge within the design of conservation programmes.

Our study will answer this key overarching question by fulfilling four main Objectives that will: (1) define the impacts of habitat conversion and disturbance on biodiversity; (2) resolve how ecosystem service provisioning and resilience is affected by habitat conversion and disturbance, focusing specifically on carbon stocking, nutrient recycling, soil nutrient and water retention, and landslide prevention; (3) understand how local communities perceive and attach cultural value to biodiversity and ecosystem services, via a program of story-telling workshops; and (4) integrate environmental and cultural values to co-design natural resource management, and translate these findings to core stakeholders, from local communities, to NGOs and relevant government departments. This research will thus enable our multidisciplinary team of experts to support Colombia in developing its economy in a manner that continues to protect biodiversity, ecosystem services and cultural values and beliefs.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
This project has access to extensive resources for dissemination to end users (see Pathways to Impact). Four UK and Colombian societal groups will benefit from the proposed research. (1) Conservation and cultural research bodies, NGOs, and environment policy-makers and assessment panels. (2) Rural Colombians in the páramo-cloudforest Andes. (3) Biology/Environmental and Arts and Humanities university students. (4) Members of the general public concerned about tropical forest loss and biodiversity extinction, plus those interested in birds.

How will they benefit from this research?
(1) Conservation and cultural research bodies, NGOs, and environment policy-makers and assessment panels. To develop a sustainable bioeconomy underpinned by culturally sensitive natural resource management, environmental funders and managers need two core pieces of information that this project will provide: (i) an understanding of the link between biodiversity, resulting ecosystem functioning, and the flows of ecosystem services to people; and (ii) how people culturally value to their natural environment.

Our principal collaborators in Colombia are at the Instituto Alexander von Humboldt (IaVH), which is funded by the Colombian government to research the nation's biological resources, their social influence, and their management. Several major UK- and Colombia-based NGOs, including WWF-Colombia, World Land Trust, Conservación Internacional, and ProAves (in)directly invest in the protection and/or purchase of critical areas for conservation in the Colombian Andes. Our research will inform both groups. Finally, UK and Colombian governments have made international agreement under the Convention of Biological Diversity 2011-2020 'Aichi Biodiversity Targets' to reduce extinction threat, and in doing so, meet SDG15 'Life on Land'. As a hotspot of extinction risk and ecosystem service losses, the Tropical Andes must be a focus of efforts, requiring international collaboration. In this respect, we will link our study to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), so that our results can feed into future regional and global assessments of the impacts of land degradation.

(2) Rural Colombians in the páramo-cloudforest Andes. Using this information, natural resource managers will be able to help improve poor rural Colombian people's lives by protecting or restoring core environmental services from which people benefit. Benefits could flow via direct financial mechanisms to protect natural habitat, such a carbon-based payments for ecosystems services (which our previous research in the Colombian Andes has quantified), reduced flood and landslide risk, and maintenance of key cultural values and human well-being.

(3) Colombian (BSc or MSc) and UK (BSc) students will gain opportunities to develop core transferable skills in data handling and manipulation techniques, plus experience of data collection during fieldwork and workshops. Further, Colombian students will gain international links that will benefit their career progressions.

(4) UK and Colombian general public. Many in the UK and Colombian wider general public are interested in or concerned about biodiversity conservation issues and climate change, and will benefit from the project's media engagement, as well as its capacity for wider public engagement in these issues, especially by bringing previously unheard community voices into the public discourse. Further, there is significant interest around birds, in terms of locations, records, and sound recordings.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Dataset of Biodiversity and Carbon Plots 
Description Dataset of biodiversity and carbon plots, across elevations and habitat types. Biodiversity includes dung beetles, birds, and epiphytes. Across 270 points, spanning a range of elevations and habitat types (pasture, forest, paramo) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact -- 
 
Title Dung Beetle Morphological Traits 
Description Functional trait matrix of morphological traits of dung beetles collected from specimens from the collection deposited in the Humboldt, plus some additional specimens from the Humboldt collections for rarer species 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact -- 
 
Description Sheffield-Humboldt Institute (IAVH) collaboration agreement 
Organisation Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution PI Edwards is the Sheffield lead of our collaboration with IAVH. We have identified locations of interest to IAVH where sampling is ongoing. We have deposited 1000's identified dung beetles in the IAVH collections.
Collaborator Contribution They have helped us select research locations, with permits for National Parks and elsewhere, import of project equipment, identification of suitable local assistants
Impact We have so far deposited 1000's identified dung beetles in the IAVH collections
Start Year 2018
 
Description Universidad Antonio Narino - Omics Collaboration 
Organisation University of Antonio Narino
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A researcher from University of Antonio Narino will come to Sheffield for training in the use of 'Omics techniques. The research team held discussions with a Sheffield PI to refine their projects and to ensure it would benefit from the use of 'Omics techniques. The researcher will travel to Sheffield for training over the next year. Travel and accommodation will be covered by Sheffield, and they will be paid a living wage for the duration of their visit.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators designed the initial research question, collected the required samples and provided a researcher to make the visit to conduct their training and execute the project
Impact None thus far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Universidad Javeriana - Omics Collaboration 
Organisation Pontifical Xavierian University
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A researcher from Universidad Javeriana will come to Sheffield for training in the use of 'Omics techniques. The research team held discussions with a Sheffield PI to refine their projects and to ensure it would benefit from the use of 'Omics techniques. The researcher will travel to Sheffield for training over the next year. Travel and accommodation will be covered by Sheffield, and they will be paid a living wage for the duration of their visit.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators designed the initial research question, collected the required samples and provided a researcher to make the visit to conduct their training and execute the project
Impact None thus far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia - Omics Collaboration 
Organisation Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A researcher from Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia will come to Sheffield for training in the use of 'Omics techniques. The research team held discussions with a Sheffield PI to refine their projects and to ensure it would benefit from the use of 'Omics techniques. The researcher will travel to Sheffield for training over the next year. Travel and accommodation will be covered by Sheffield, and they will be paid a living wage for the duration of their visit.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators designed the initial research question, collected the required samples and provided a researcher to make the visit to conduct their training and execute the project
Impact None thus far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Universidad de Cundinamarca - Omics Collaboration 
Organisation University of Cundinamarca
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Researchers from University of Cundinamarca will come to Sheffield for training in the use of 'Omics techniques. The research teams held discussions with a Sheffield PI to refine their projects and to ensure they would benefit from the use of 'Omics techniques. The researchers will travel to Sheffield for training over the next year. Travel and accommodation will be covered by Sheffield, and they will be paid a living wage for the duration of their visit.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators designed the initial research question, collected the required samples and provided a researcher to make the visit to conduct their training and execute the project
Impact None thus far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Universidad de la Sabana - Omics Collaboration 
Organisation University of La Sabana
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A researcher from University of La Sabana will come to Sheffield for training in the use of 'Omics techniques. The research team held discussions with a Sheffield PI to refine their projects and to ensure it would benefit from the use of 'Omics techniques. The researcher will travel to Sheffield for training over the next year. Travel and accommodation will be covered by Sheffield, and they will be paid a living wage for the duration of their visit.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators designed the initial research question, collected the required samples and provided a researcher to make the visit to conduct their training and execute the project
Impact None thus far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Paramo Integration Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact One-day academic workshop attended by all five UK PIs, along with key members of their teams. The focus of the workshop was the development of strategies for project integration and impact. Each project provided an update on their progress, and on the partnerships they are developing with Colombian institutions. Discussions on impact focused on public engagement activities, with an emphasis on the need for cultural sensitivity when disseminating results and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paramo Writing Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A week-long workshop for Sheffield and Loughborough post-docs, discussing analysis of data and ideas for publication. The first day covered progress updates on biodiversity and storytelling data collection. The remainder of the week focused on small group-writing and discussion sessions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020