Translating Páramo: Historical and Scientific Practices Making Páramos in the Eastern Andes of Colombia.

Mónica Amador-Jiménez & Daniel Tarazona

Páramos are high-altitude ecosystems typical of the Neotropics. In the Andes, they are located above the Andean forest strip (Rangel-Ch, 2000) at altitudes between 3400 m.a.s.l. and up to 5000 m.a.s.l. In the northern part of the Andes, the inferior limits of these ecosystems are considered to be between 2800 and 3000 m.a.s.l. The páramos found in the eastern Andes of Colombia present high precipitation and low temperatures, with temperatures reaching below 0°C during night-time and with an average of approx. 15 °C during the day (Sarmiento et al., 2013). Páramos host several native and endemic species (Hofstede et al., 2003) and in Colombia, they occupy 2.5% of the Colombian territory (Sarmiento et al., 2013). According to ecological studies, they are essential for the provision and regulation of water (Rangel-Ch., 2000) and function as soil-based carbon reservoirs, hence their importance as strategic ecosystems for climate change mitigation (Armenteras et al., 2003).

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Commoning to face COVID19, the experience of the Monquentiva Páramo Community

Mónica Amador

Research Associate, University of Bristol

In this blog, we are going to talk about how the inhabitants of the high Andean forests in the eastern mountain range of Colombia have experienced and faced the Covid-19 health crisis. Regarding this experience, we will reflect on the notion of commoning, a discussion that has gained relevance in recent years among Latin American thinkers, to understand socio-environmental relationships in the Latin American context.

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by Ismael García Espinoza, MSc student in Geography, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá (Comments: Dunia H. Urrego)


It is an exciting —and strange— thing to arrive, for the first time, to a country knowing that it will be your home for longer than a month. It all gets even quirkier when you discover this new home is way colder than you thought, and pubs are always full of people who like warm beer a lot.

I had the opportunity of working as a visiting research student during a month within the Tropical Palaeoecology Group at the University of Exeter. My visit was supported through a collaboration between Prof. Dolors Armenteras of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá and Dr. Dunia H. Urrego of the University of Exeter, UK, and funded by the NERC-AHRC project BioResilience (

The experience included a rigorous and intense laboratory work in the facilities of the University, which are wonderfully equipped with high precision devices and highly qualified technicians. Also, I spent half a week in Italy, presenting the BioResilience project to the academic community at a Paleobiology and Conservation symposium. I tried to answer all the questions they asked, and I think I did a good job calming their curiosity about Colombia. At the same time, and somewhat unfairly, they could not agree with a single explanation about why Italians speak with their hands. I am still intrigued.

Photo 1. Sampling a sediment core from Pantano de Martos in the highlands

The constant academic and personal support provided by the BioResilience investigators, especially by Dunia H. Urrego and Juan Felipe Franco, as well as the technical assistance of Angela Elliot in the lab, made my first time in the United Kingdom a truly forming experience. Having the opportunity to work in an environment that strives to deliver high quality-science that also cares about the well-being of those who make it possible was inspiring. This experience at Exeter had sown seeds of motivation and determination to continue the hard work within a team capable of generating positive impacts well beyond those initially raised.

Exeter felt like home. I could have never imagined that such a small city would hold such a huge heart. The many accents I had to face and the cold and poor weather were all worth it. I was immersed in an atmosphere of knowledge that improved my technical skills and broadened my interests. And since getting back to Colombia, I always put vinegar on my chips!

¡Gracias, Exeter!

Covid19 in the Inter-Andean Forests of Colombia

Mónica Amador-Jiménez and Naomi Millner

In this blog post, we want to zoom in on the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions have had on forests and populations at different altitudinal gradients in the eastern Andean forest of Colombia.

We will in this text concentrate on two areas along with the central-eastern Andes mountain range, areas where the research project “BioResilience of the Andean Forest in Colombia” has been conducting ecological and sociocultural fieldwork: 1. The Serranía de las Quinchas mountain range in the Middle Magdalena region in the Andes lowlands, and 2. The highlands of the Monquentiva Natural Park, which is part of the biological corridor of the Chingaza National Natural Park.

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PAGES will support the “Environmental histories and interdisciplinary perspectives on resilience in the tropical Andes Workshop”, Bogotá-Colombia.

Coordinators: Dr Felipe Franco-Gaviria, University of Exeter and Dr Mónica Amador-Jiménez, University of Bristol                         
Disciplines: This workshop addresses the issues related to past environmental change and their effects on socio-ecological resilience in Andean Ecosystems. The workshop intends to integrate human sociocultural practices and long-term environmental change, incorporating a multi-disciplinary perspective in achieving this. The disciplines include but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, history, and paleo-science.
Dates: To be confirmed, potentially between December 2020 and February 2021
Venue: Bogotá, Colombia
Sponsors Past Global Changes PAGES

Researches from BioResilience project have been working on organising a workshop about “Environmental histories and interdisciplinary perspectives on resilience in the tropical Andes” in Bogota, Colombia. This workshop will provide a unique opportunity for sharing research expertise and networking on environmental histories of Andean ecosystems. During two days the workshop seeks to i) Study the magnitude and duration of environmental changes and their potential impact on humans and ecological processes in Andean ecosystems, ii) Build an interdisciplinary academic network on the understanding of the factors that have contributed to the resilience of the Andean ecosystems, and iii)Produce policy-relevant information through the knowledge of long-term environmental change and their effects in social and ecological resilience.

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Efforts to Promote Environmental Governance in Serranía de las Quinchas

Camilo Altamar Giraldo, Master Student Universidad de Manizales and Mónica Amador, University of Bristol  (Translation and comments: Juan Riaño and Naomi Millner)

Environmental governance is a central element of socio-ecological resilience, so its study is essential to understand the dynamics that are used in the territories, especially in those ecosystems where the biophysical component is extremely important and is attended by anthropogenic difficulties such as armed conflict and deforestation of forests.

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The return of the Paujil to the Serranía de las Quinchas

Mónica Amador-Jiménez, University of Bristol

According to Colombian scientists, there are approximately only 2500 individuals left of the endemic bird species Paujil, and the primary threats against the Blue-billed Curassow, as it is called in English, are deforestation and hunting. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature affirms that Crax Alberti, the scientific name of the Paujil, is in critical danger of extinction. Crax Alberti is a very particular bird, and the males of this species are the ones blue-billed that represent the image that creates so much sympathy and interest among conservationists and birdwatchers. Ornithologists and biologists specialized in studying bird behaviour, are struck by the fidelity of the Paujil; this bird has only one partner throughout its entire reproductive life. What adds to the vulnerability of the species is that it has a meager reproduction rate as it lays only two eggs a year. The paujil is a territorial animal that avoids contact with humans and its highly developed sensitivity to sounds makes it able to detect soon the presence of humans or animals that could threaten them. For that reason, the Paujil is known to be a bird that alerts other animals in the forest when there is the presence of predators. The paujil emits a loud intermittent sound when detecting potential danger. The paujils are, however, vulnerable since they cannot make long flights or fly high, and most of the time they stay on the ground looking for seeds and small animals or move around in trees looking for fruits.

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From the Amazon in Brazil, to the Serranía de las Quinchas in Colombia: Why we should stop blaming deforestation to impoverished rural communities.

By: Juan Felipe Riaño Landazabal, Master Student Universidad Javeriana

In 2019, daunting photos of a fire-consumed Amazon made the frontpage[1] on the world’s top newspapers[2]. The fires triggered global concerns about the deforestation rates of the Amazon rainforest, especially under Brazil’s far-right president Bolsonaro, who has publicly stated that the country’s protected areas are an obstacle to economic growth and need to be opened up for commercial exploitation. While the fires drew all eyes to Brazil, they also raised concerns about the overall state of the world’s rainforest. Unsurprisingly, these concerns unveiled a far more disturbing reality[3]: Despite a growing number of zero-deforestation commitments by State and non-State actors, primary rainforest loss hit record highs in 2016 and 2017 and remained above the historical level in 2018.

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Serranía de las Quinchas: Indigenous Embera and Spirits Entangled


Mónica Amador-Jiménez, University of Bristol

Travelling from Puerto Boyacá to the Serranía de las Quinchas Regional Park, about halfway to las Quinchas you arrive at a farm called “Triple G.” This farm, which looks like most other cattle and pasture farms in this region, is close to the Embera Cabildo, an indigenous settlement that was established about 17 years ago and whose governing council is recognized as an indigenous authority by the municipality and the Ministry of Interior of Colombia. In this blog entry, we will share impressions from our encounters with the inhabitants of this settlement, a group of Emberas that had been forcibly displaced from other parts of the country and who, upon reaching the mountain range of the Quinchas, settled down and soon initiated a deep relationship with these forested mountains.

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