Alliance to increase our knowledge about the natural patrimony and the environmental services of the Guajira

Status: In progress


The interaction of abiotic factors (weather, soil, geology, geomorphology and hydrology) determine the potential or the limits for the establishment of plants and animals. Presence of flora and fauna also depend on human activities which could affect, positively or negatively, their conservation or fragmentation and therefore promote or block the energy flow of natural systems.

Colombia has been ranked among the five nations with the highest biodiversity in the world (Oficina Regional de América Latina y el Caribe 1997). However, ecosystems in Colombia have been strongly transformed by people (Leyva, 1998). This has resulted in the massive destruction of thousands of hectares of highly diverse habitats and the transformation of large areas of natural vegetation to agriculture or areas for human use.

This is why SELVA, within the NATURE-GUAJIRA project, is tackling a biodiversity characterization of the Guajira Department ecosystems. This includes a detailed description of the flora (zoning & composition) and its associated fauna (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish). Our results will feed into the official management plans and any regional projects or programmes focused in protecting all of Guajira’s biodiversity.

Key findings and achievements

The field team has already sampled 30% of the sites and the following are the key results by group:

  • Mammals: 54 species have been recorded. Most of them are widely distributed, however important records include rare species like Diphylla ecaudata, Trachops cirrhosus, Phylloderma stenops, Chrotopterus auritus, and records of carismatic species like Allouata seniculus and Marmosa robinsoni.
  • Anphibians and reptiles: Most of the species recorded are under the least concern (LC) IUCN category. Of importance is the presence of C. ruthveni, an endemic species from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and under the endangered (EN) IUCN category (Lynch et al., 2004). An important reptile record was that of Amphisbaena medemi, a species that, until recently, had only been recorded in Atlántico and Cesar departments. The team also recorded Chelonoidis carbonaria, a species under the critically endangered (CR) IUCN category (MAVDT, 2010). Iguana iguana and Boa constrictor were recorded and are of interest because they are CITES species (CITES, 2011).
  • Birds: 223 species of 53 families have been recorded. Among them were three threatened species and 29 boreal migrants. There were also a further 8 limited range species restricted to endemic bird areas (EBA’s).
  • Training in plant preparation: the women from local association Cañatur, located in Cañaverales on the San Juan del Cesar municipality, received training in plant specimen preparation. The workshop, led by an expert from the botanical collection at the Instituto de Ciencias de la Universidad Nacional, included training in mounting, pressing and drying of botanical samples. These women will benefit economically from the samples they prepare, and the estimated 10,000 samples resulting from the project will feed the National Herbarium and our botanical knowledge of Guajira.


Photo Gallery:

Documents for download

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Conservation International Colombia

Project team:

  • Technical manager: Carlos Andrés Paez
  • Logistics manager: Néstor Escobar de la Pava
  • Ornithologist: Fernado Ayerbe Quiñones
  • Mammologist: Victor Manuel Martinez Arias
  • Herpethologist:  Fabio Leonardo Meza Joya
  • Botanist species characterization:  Diego González
  • Botanist functional diversity: Carolina Alcázar Caicedo