Extinction vulnerability of Andean birds


Climate change and vulnerability of birds in Andean forests: estimating niche diversity and assessing information biases and conservation gaps

Status – In progress


Compared to birds from other regions of Colombia, species in Andean ecosystems face more intensive pressures due to several threats, including deforestation and climate change. Rates of deforestation throughout the Colombian Andes are higher than in any other region, which explains the high concentration of threatened bird species in this area. Moreover, climate change is projected as a major concern, heightening the need for conservation actions for taxa endemic to the Andes, particularly those with restricted distributional ranges.

Despite there being valuable information on the extinction risk of several Andean birds, there are no studies assessing the likelihood of loss of environmental singularities that could potentially compromise the persistence of bird populations restricted to those areas most vulnerable to climate change. Even more worrying, is the vast number of Andean species that lack adequate information for estimating climatic niches and geographic ranges. Even for those species whose distribution has been described, there has been no attempt to evaluate the quality of the information used as inputs for ecological and conservation analyses. Clearly these gaps could result in biases in modelled distributions, which in turn will result in misleading conclusions for designing conservation measures.

This project will use seven bird families/sub-families as study systems based on their dependence on forested habitats and/or the elevated number of species distributed throughout the Andes (Cracidae, Ramphastidae, Picidae, Psittacidae, Grallaridae, Dendrocolaptinae, Cotingidae). For each family, we will (i) assess the quality of all available geographic information for each conservation unit (species or sub-species), in order to identify potential gaps and biases; (ii) determine conservation gaps for each species and family and identify how these gaps have changed over a decade (2002-2012); (iii) quantify climatic diversity and singularity across the distributional range of each conservation unit and detect potentially vulnerable populations in the face of climate change.

This study considers species or sub-species endemic to the Andes as potential conservation units, regardless of their current conservation and taxonomic status. Considering all potentially susceptible populations is of great importance, as vulnerability to climate change is not necessarily related to the current conservation status of a given taxon.

This project consists of three stages:

1. Identifying information gaps and potential biases in geographic information for all sub-species and species restricted to the Andes in each of six bird families using species distribution modelling (SDM).

2. Determining conservation gaps and identifying the main threats to each conservation unit, using datasets exposed to a cleaning process as input data for spatial and geo-statistical analyses.

3. Projecting the degree of loss of environmental representativity and singularity of the climatic niche of each conservation unit. Each species’ susceptibility to climate change will be predicted using standardized indexes of vulnerability built from ecological and geographical information.

Key Results

None at the moment.


Call for two trainee positions (click here).

Documents for download

None at the moment.


None at the moment.


The role of SELVA in this research is currently voluntary. If you are interested in supporting this project please write to:  

Project team

Director – Dr. Esteban Botero-Delgadillo

Researchers – María Isabel Moreno y Juan Mauricio García