Future-proofing Colombia’s protected areas

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“This project has been an invitation to think differently about protected areas – it can continue to be a powerful tool for the management of protected areas anywhere in the world.”

These were the words of Luis Germán Naranjo, Conservation Director, WWF Colombia during the final leadership meeting of a Luc Hoffmann Institute project that is helping people and protected areas adapt to environmental change in Colombia.

The three-year project, which is now coming to a close, worked in two pilot sites – the Amazon piedmont and the Otun watershed in the coffee-growing region. It aimed to ensure that adaptation and the future expansion of the protected area network draws on the best available knowledge to maintain ecosystem services in the face of climate change.

The meeting, held in Bogota recently, presented a comprehensive overview of the project to partners and stakeholders. It discussed lessons learned and assessed how the project, or parts of it, could be integrated into other similar initiatives.

Lorrae Van Kerkhoff, academic lead, outlined the project methodology and the contribution of various tools while other team members explained how the tools were used in both the pilot sites. The meeting discussed possible future uptake and impact of the work including tools like Protected Areas – Benefits Assessment Tools (PA-BAT) to assess management effectiveness. PA-BAT, which is already being implemented in Colombia has spurred a change in how protected areas are viewed, discussed and governed.

“This project was unlike any other I’ve been a part of because it provided the space for people to deeply think about the issues and together see how to address them,” said Marta Diaz of Colombia National Parks. “Now that we have clarity we need to think about how to move forward, how to apply all that we’ve learned from this enriching process.”

The meeting reaffirmed the high level of commitment, enthusiasm and trust between partners that was built during the life of the project. It is hoped the work will continue to help guide Colombia as it faces new challenges and opportunities in conservation.

Project partners: Australian National University, CSIRO, WWF-Colombia, Parques Nacionales Colombia.