MapBiomas Colombia is an initiative of Gaia Amazonas, RAISG and the MapBiomas Network

Colombia is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Its swamps, mangroves and forests of different types, among others, are home to 10% of the Earth's biodiversity. However, many of these biomes are threatened by deforestation, mining, oil exploration, infrastructure projects and agricultural activities, as well as climate change, which affects the entire planet.

In this context, the MapBiomas Colombia, a project led by Fundação Gaia Amazonas, as part of RAISG and the MapBiomas Network, aims to create a platform for collecting, storing, visualizing and analyzing data through 38 maps of land cover and use across the country, from 1985 to 2022.

Information on this web platform for Colombia shows significant reductions in different natural covers and an increase in activities that cause their decline over the 38 years of the study.

Here are some of the most relevant data:

  • In 38 years, Colombia lost 7.5% of its natural vegetation.
  • During the same period, 4.4 million hectares of forest were lost. An extension similar to 27 times the size of the city of Bogotá.
  • Glaciers have shrunk by 55.3% compared to those that existed in 1985.
  • Flooded forests decreased by 26,700 hectares, equivalent to twice the size of the city of Manizales.
  • Mining increased by 245.6% in Colombia as a whole.
  • Oil palm cultivation grew by 349.4 thousand hectares, equivalent to 1.8 times the size of Mexico City.
  • Aquaculture increased by 1,857%, the equivalent of 3,260 football fields.
  • The area dedicated to forestry quadrupled (179.4 thousand hectares, equivalent to 4.7 times the size of Medellín).
  • Urban infrastructure grew 216.6%, an average of 4.7 thousand hectares per year.
  • Agricultural areas increased from 20.7% to 26.1% of Colombian territory. In other words, there was an increase of 6.2 million hectares.
  • 71% of Colombian territory is covered by natural vegetation.

“We want MapBiomas Colombia to be a platform that informs and influences territorial planning and the protection of biodiversity in the country. This launch is an invitation for other organizations to join us, using their knowledge and experience, with the aim of having a large repository of information on land cover and use, which will be a fundamental input for governments, on a regional and national scale, and other decision makers in Colombia”, says Silvia Gómez, Executive Director of the Gaia Amazonas Foundation.

Disaggregating the data by region, it becomes clear that the magnitude of the transformations is not distributed equally. The Caribbean region has experienced the most notable changes, with a loss of 12.1% of its natural vegetation, a 632.2% increase in oil palm cultivation, which has led to 42.1% of the country's oil palm plantations, and a 581.4% increase in mining compared to 1985.

On the other hand, the Amazon lost most of its natural forests (2.6 million hectares, 16 times Bogotá), with the departments of Caquetá (20.3%), Meta (15.5%) and Guaviare (11 .5%) suffered the greatest loss. These were mainly replaced by cover crops associated with agricultural and livestock use.

Colombia is the fourth country, after Brazil, Bolivia and Peru (Venezuela and Ecuador plan to launch later this year), to join this initiative to map land cover and land use change in South America in order to understand the dynamics of change at different scales: biomes, countries and regions. In the Colombian case, says Adriana Rojas, technical coordinator of MapBiomas Colombia, “this first collection shows an unprecedentedly broad temporal and thematic scale, 38 years and 20 types of land cover in a single product, with an efficient and comparable methodology in terms of South American region that allows cross-border analysis and comprehensive assessment of entire regions, such as the Amazon, the Orinoco and the Pacific.”

In addition to getting to know up-to-date and, in some cases, hitherto unavailable data on land cover in the country, the launch will be an opportunity to familiarize yourself with how this platform works, developed with Google Earth Engine cloud computing technology.