Objectives and outputs
Colombia is known to be one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Nevertheless, the current knowledge on inventory and monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystems does not fully reflect this richness, being incomplete in certain regions. Counteracting this situation, the nation-wide ‘Colombia Bio’ programme has recently been established by the Colombian government with the main aim of making sustainable economic use of Colombia’s biodiversity resources. This programme offers a unique opportunity for Kew and partner organisations in Colombia to undertake primary research on biodiversity and ecosystem services in parts of the country as yet completely unexplored. The ambition of this exploratory research is to enable long-term plans for the conservation and sustainable use of Colombia’s natural capital to be established.
Kew Science will be involved in a significant number of research projects over the next 4-5 years (from 2017) under the umbrella of the Colombia Bio programme.
This particular project is focused on the Boyaca region of Colombia and by Spring 2018 will deliver a catalogue and prioritisation of the huge number of useful plant species of Boyacá, to boost the economy of the region whilst supporting livelihoods, food security and health.
With an astonishing range of climates from arid to super-humid, a diversity of ecosystems from lowland tropical rainforest and savannas to super-páramos, and altitudes spanning from almost sea level to more than 5,000 m via its intricate topography, Boyacá’s known flora is extremely rich, with circa 4,500 recorded plant species. This does not even count the fact that approximately 78% of the department (region) does not have information on its flora, including some of the arguably richest areas. The information on plant uses is also scanty and often unreliable. In the post-conflict era in Colombia, Boyacá is betting on developing a ‘green’ economy based on the sustainable use of its enormous biodiversity resources; as part of this natural capital, plants might have a great potential to improve livelihoods and economic development in Boyacá but this is only possible if knowledge of the natural capital assets is reliable and accessible. An integrated information source does not currently exist, and local initiatives using products from biodiversity sustainably are disjointed, and often fail due to the lack of innovation and competitiveness. These challenges have been identified by the government of Boyacá, which is now promoting transformation via research and development.
Our Useful Plants project will deliver a catalogue and prioritisation of useful plant species of Boyacá, to boost the economy of the region whilst supporting livelihoods, food security and health. The deliverables will be integrated with Kew’s Plants of the World Online Portal, and follow the data standards established for the Useful Plants and Fungi Project and the Colombian Biodiversity Catalogue.
With the likely high numbers of useful species, prioritisation is fundamental to guide species selection for R&D+i projects. We will prioritise useful species with methods tested by our Colombian partners, weighting multiple criteria including conservation status, endemism, rarity, number of references in literature, category of use (economic, socio-cultural, medical, etc), ecological importance, information on seed germination/propagation (including constraints to these) and bio-prospecting potential.
The information on Boyacá’s useful plants available through the catalogue, integrated with Kew’s Plants of the World Online Portal, will benefit a broad spectrum of users, from the general public, horticulturalists and teachers, to researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs and decision-makers, and will inform projects on management, research, development and innovation for the department.
This project has three aims:
- Data compilation and databasing: Collect, classify, digitise and organise information on the useful plants of Boyacá, to develop a robust and comprehensive database with structured high-quality curated botanical information on useful plants of Boyacá.
- Online platform: Build an open-access online dynamic platform that can retrieve species information in real time from our databases, displaying it in a user-friendly environment in Spanish and English, to provide authoritative, expert-driven, up-to-date information on uses and characteristics of these plants.
- Prioritisation of useful species: Prioritise useful species, testing various algorithms and methods, taking into account conservation status, endemism, rarity, number of references in literature, category of use, ecological importance, information on seed germination/propagation and bio-prospecting potential.
- Catálogo de Plantas Útiles de Boyacá (PUB): The information on Boyacá’s useful plants will be available online through the PUB catalogue, integrated with Kew’s Plants of the World Online Portal (POWO). The PUB will be the go-to source of information for all the useful plants of the department, organised and reliable information based on the highest taxonomic resolution, and maintained and updated over time as part of the POWO.
- Prioritised species profiles (generated from the database): These will be published in a book edited by Kew/IAVH in English/Spanish for local users, along with key priorities for management, research and engagement, integrated into national/regional/local decision-making,
- The final algorithm for species prioritisation: This will be published in a high-impact publication.
Partners and collaborators
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
- UK Official Development Assistance (ODA)
- Newton Fund
- The British Council
- Colombian National Royalties’ System
- Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation of Colombia (Colciencias)
Partners and collaborators: