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EO4cultivar Colombia: Mapping Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services in the Magdalena region, Colombia

Logos of EO4Cultivar and the UK Space Agency

EO4cultivar Sustainable Livelihoods Case Study: Mapping Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services in the Magdalena region, Colombia

As part of the EO4cultivar project, the Colombian case study applies an integrated ecosystem approach to sustainable land management in the Magdalena region in northern Colombia.  This economically important production area supplies bananas and other key commodities to UK supply chains. 

The outputs of this work serves as a case study as to how Earth observation data and ecosystem service modelling can be incorporated into land-use decision making. The case study has been co-designed with stakeholder organisations who are undertaking environmental improvement work in the study area, but the methods applied can be adapted for use in other production systems and landscapes in other places in the world.

The outputs produced are designed to improve understanding of how adopting a natural capital approach to land management can increase ecosystem resilience. The ecosystem service maps and accompanying management guides indicate how natural functions and processes can be considered in land-use planning, therefore ensuring that these natural systems are able to continue to support human activities.

The case study focusses on the Zona Bananera, a municipality of the Magdalena Department situated on the Caribbean coastline in northern Colombia.  The Zona Bananera supports a range of agricultural practices including banana and oil palm plantations and livestock grazing.

Study area description

The Zona Bananera has over 56,000 inhabitants, with 40% of regional employment linked to the banana industry. The industry produces around 390,000 tonnes of bananas annually for the international market; contributing to both local and national economies.

These agricultural activities are undertaken in close proximity to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Cienega Grande de Santa Marta protected areas. These globally important sites hold some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.

Over the course of the first four years, the project worked with a range of key local stakeholders which included large commercial agricultural businesses, non-government organisations who work with small-holder growers and local communities, and local government agencies. These parties all identified similar challenges regarding: water provisioning (quantity and quality) and water transport; protection from soil erosion and maintenance of soil biomass; flood water regulation; and maintenance of biodiversity.

Focussing on these factors, the project set about demonstrating how Earth observations, ecosystem modelling, and local knowledge can be brought together to inform holistic management of the ecosystems within this biodiversity rich and highly productive multi-functional landscape.


Online Ecosystem Service Mapper

The online mapper presents 14 interactive maps. The study uses Spatial Evidence for Natural Capital Evaluation (SENCE) toolkit developed by Environment Systems for mapping and modelling ecosystem services. To inform the management challenges that were identified by stakeholders the following ecosystem services have been modelled:

  • Surface water regulation (flood risk mitigation): identifying places where there is the opportunity to undertake land interventions to slow the flow of water runoff.
  • Soil erosion risk: mapping the risk of soil erosion by wind and precipitation.
  • Ecological connectivity: mapping the eco-connectivity of semi-natural habitats to show where restoration of habitats can enhance the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Screenshot of the Colombia mapper


Ecosystem Management Guides

In order to link the ecosystem service modelling to practical management interventions on the ground, JNCC developed a set of management guides that can be used in conjunction with the ecosystem service modelled outputs. The guides focus on the management of water, soil, biodiversity and cultural ecosystem services.

Front cover of the Management Guide for Water Management and Ecosystem Services


Project Reports and Data Download

Two reports accompany the case study. The first report outlines methods used to produce the habitat map, which is the basis for the ecosystem service modelling. The second report focusses on the SENCE approach used to model ecosystem services. The reports are accompanied by GIS data and images of the modelled outputs and are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.

A group of at least 40 students are sitting in a lecture room listening to a presentation. A large screen in the room projects the slides for the presentation. © M. Smith.




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