Applied Landscape Ecology, Future Socioeconomics and Policy-Making in the Neotropics by The Ecotropics group

Perspectives on Nature Conservation - Patterns, Pressures and Prospects / INTECH

March 2012

Conservation of larger areas involves greater complexity and sets of issues that confront the conservationist change and become more difficult. The global perspective is indeed the youngest conservation approach (in an endeavor that is less than a century old itself); the challenges that face global conservation are still murky, the strategies developed to achieve it are relatively undeveloped, and the international agreements to enable it are insufficient. A chapter by Restrepo-Aristizábal, Valentina Heggestad and Acuña-Rodríguez concludes this volume. It elaborates on the use of landscape ecology and its principals in the development of a policy for nature conservation throughout the Neotropics (of Latin America) in the context of global (particularly global climate) change. Conservation, particularly conservation of intact forests and other carbon-sequestering environments, is now of critical importance to not just saving species, but more importantly to providing the breaks to slow the warming of the Earth’s climate. Conservation can be a vital tool to increase storage of atmospheric carbon and could be (partially) effective even without the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions that is being bargained for at the United Nations Committee of the Parties meetings that are following up on the Kyoto Protocol. The will to make the necessary changes to combat global warming head-on may elude the world’s diplomatic communities, but a regional conservation plan could serve as a stopgap measure, or at least a preliminary step toward regaining a balance in the world system.

By Dr. John Tieffenbacher

Director of Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazard Research at Texas State University

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Book about Fauna Silvestre de La Reserva Forestal Los Montes de Oca. April 19, 2011

Landscape dynamics, forest fragmentation and their relation to socio-economic history and biophysical attributes in the Colombian highlands

Reducing the Vulnerability of Societies to Water Related Risks at the Basin Scale (Proceedings of the third International Symposium on Integrated Water Resources Management, Bochum, Germany, September 2006). IAHS Publ. 317, 2007.

The concepts of landscape ecology are analyzed through scale, structure, function and change. These are useful when approached from a holistic perspective and offer an analytical tool for integrated watershed management using a geographic information system. This study seeks to understand, from a landscape ecology perspective, the severe water shortages in two sub-basin areas characterized by rugged mountainous terrain, extensive cloud cover, and dense vegetation. The landscape changes were analyzed through interactions among temporal (1940–1993) and spatial patterns of land-cover, agrosystems, a half century of human history and biophysical attributes. The analysis illustrates how deforestation, religion, biophysical attributes, fragmentation, and their relation with socioeconomic history also influence the ecosystems of the northern Andes.

The Wiki Ecoinformatic Web-finder of The Americas derived from New Technologies (WEWANT)(Link)

The Wiki Ecoinformatic Web-finder of The Americas derived from New Technologies, WEWANT assists data providers and users of biodiversity management to promptly locate through hyperlinks over 200 datasets and services deployed at and developed by . WEWANT also equips governments and academia with the best data and services on which to base their biodiversty planning decisions and outline manifold policy options. In this climate change and biodiversity-depleted economy, WEWANT responds to both public and private sectors in supporting users to find biodiversity knowledge as scientific and management tools. For example, many sectors need to identify raw materials from natural sources for biotechnology or bio-nanotechnology processes, evolve biomimicry for industrial designers, emulate biomorphism for architects, develop neobiological industries, enact public policies, report to the United Nations conventions, run statistics analyses and models, enable better biodiversity planning, manage invasive species, develop forest carbon baselines, and elongate biodiversity in order to compensate for reducing emissions from deforestation and ecosystems degradation through REDD Plus. Likely, biodiversity web-based information can be slow to download, exchange, and tools difficult to interact because of the lack of political interoperability among institutions. Since 1996, the Inter American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) at has played a unifying role between data/services providers and users, by facilitating access to digitized data, metadata, and public policy decision support online tools. All in all, one of the major IABIN milestones and contributions is the political overlay of 34 Organization of American States (OAS) member’s countries acceptance of technical protocols and standards to share and contribute biodiversity information. Learn more

The Ecotropics group was the technical coordinator along with a transdiciplinary team to build the Inter American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN). See project developed products at

Also, IABIN Milestones

The Ecotropics group Founder helped to develop the Global Change Master Directory for Earth Science Systems @ NASA. See project developed product at

Metadata Development for Ecological Networks for the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites Newsletters . April 2007

Please. Have a look at

El mercado voluntario de carbono como una alternativa económica en Colombia. Eco Editores. June 2011


Integrated Bird Elongation Management (IBEM) Taking Partner Actions From Appalachians towards Neotropical Andes for Migratory Birds: Developing market-based mechanisms while fostering forestry voluntary Carbon offsets and biodiversity stakeholder engagement

Interview made by the Research Wildlife Group at US Forest Service to Ecotropics CEO Arturo Restrepo Aristizabal

USFS: How does supporting environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability at coffee lands help you in achieving the goals in your organization´s business plan?

AR: If coffee growers are granted with a financial mechanism to ensure a fixed $USD 500 price year round for every sack (125 Kg) yield of dried coffee beans, either carbon credits or market itself will deal with ecological economics sustainability. Also, the shade-grown coffee and clean farming technology will likely be easy to adapt a conservation agriculture plan. The latter would be spurred by the voluntary Carbon credits to sustain the ecological economics by enhancing biological control, resilience to climate change, soil conservation, and landscape connectivity. The outcome, for small and medium farmers, is diverse as lower inputs of agrochemicals, fertilizers, plaguicides, likely a better coffee taste in flavor and body, more savings, and circular economics welfare. However to facilitate this process; we need a brief background about Colombia’s coffee sector. From the outlook of medium and small coffee growers, stewardship has always been made part of the business plan. The coffee growers have acted as commons in sensu Elinor Ostrom, which described the set of rules needed to keep a commons going as the way to grasp a better stewardship and environmental management. In fact, these growers act and react promptly and collectively to either the market responses or plagues infestation. They are also aware of shade-grown coffee, because they deal with the impact of climate change in non-resilient monoculture landscapes and the loss of ecological performance.

However, the reader should be acquainted with the coffee market history, the on and off try-outs of macro-economic models, the green revolution, and the “roya” (leaf rust) and “broca” outbreaks (coffee berry borer) Hypothenemus hampei of the coffee plantations, and its proposed management in order to embark in future agriculture conservation plans. In fact, for over 90 years coffee growers in Colombia have shown to be one of the most resilient agribusiness and high-quality coffee suppliers worldwide, but they need to do reengineering with its existing institutional capacity.

USFS: What is the value added to your team by participating in partnerships with other entities, such as corporations seeking practical solutions to environmental problems? What programs does your organization as a whole have that foster partnerships or offer opportunities for mutual benefit with private sectors ?

AR: At Applied Ecology for Tropical Resources Inc ECOTROPICS, the International Division approaches problems with holistic frameworks to develop applied agribusiness solutions. Ecotropics and partners organizations have a sound experience by integrating indigenous knowledge, business, ecotourism, communities, reforestation, and applied coherent ecology in The Americas. In July 2008, Ecotropics started the Carbon portfolio program to support reduced emission from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The blueprint of this program is chiefly to support focal ecosystems and its buffer zones, where Ecotropics mobilizes funding, to achieve longer financial and environmental sustainability after Ecotropics grant-making process is completed. The challenging task envisioning a practical solution is to widen scientific and socio-economic perspectives in order to fulfill several migrants birds Conservation Plans between Nearctics and Neotropics. This should be represented by Coffee and Extractives (From Appalachians towards the Andes) revenues and offsets, governments, and conservation interests. In aim of this goal, Ecotropics performs an integrated model Environmental System Analysis (ESA computer assisted) based on ground truth and remote sensing data, scientific published data and secondary sources aiming to develop an ecological economics model. The latter could run various scenarios to integrate the requirements of Migratory Birds and the stakeholders in Colombia. After all stakeholders involved agrees in the model representation, then implementation should be continued.

USFS: Conversely, from your perspective what are some examples of impediments to partnering with conservation entities seeking practical solutions to environmental issues, or what factors reduce the willingness of members of your industry to participate in collaborative partnerships around conservation issues?

AR: There are various factors that reduce willingness of different stakeholders to participate in conservation plans, before implementing a conservation project; they need to ensure that the community livelihood and business sectors are understood and covered. At Ecotropics, before removing barriers towards conservation planning and management, we identify the problem, causes, effects and potential solutions. In doing this, we establish common rules among stakeholders and avoid at maximum communication breakdowns. Integration of remote sensing information, local practices, and creativity (i.e. developing a sustainable project that works with the communities’ needs), are fundamental components of the work the non-profit sector will be doing with rural populations in tropical countries. Unfortunately, rural populations are the least understood, and they are usually treated indifferently. We assemble needed resources and then catalyze the cycle and management of projects. Thus, most services are secured through planning, log-frames, risk analysis, and socio-sustainable studies (i.e., cost-benefit, object oriented, and appraisal of valuable services at landscape level). Therefore, we could embrace three main integration support mechanisms to achieve conservation measurable goals: integrated and collective resources management using common pool resources methods (CPR); integration into the communities of environmental sound and locally appropriate technology; payment for ecosystem services and integration of multiscale markets to support the rural livelihood. There are many conservation projects in the tropics being carried out by a myriad of organizations.

Unfortunately, many of those organizations have not been successful in sustaining these activities. Instead, these organizations identify problems but do not initiate measures to sustain or follow-up with the projects. Just imagine running a decadal balanced scorecard among these NGOs to test any implemented project in terms of design, pertinence, sense of ownership, strategic communication, efficacy, efficiency and sustainability! As a result, poverty and decay of natural resources remains the same or even worse, frequently fluctuating in the geopolitical and economics agenda. We perform ground truth field work to tackle this challenge of hidden political ecologies, while sustaining project implementation in the long-term, in a global ecological economics 360 outlook.

Our stakeholders needs a combination of services, tools, and insights enabling sustainable agricultural practices in tropical rural communities. Usually projects from other organizations focus on a top-down approach to aid rural communities, they need a perfect ratio between top down and bottom up. This leaned top-down approach undermines communities because policy-making decisions do not provide or incorporate local conditions. Therefore, multilateral efforts to alleviate poverty may be doomed to costly failures. Instead, measurable goals, tools and services should be integrated with the native knowledge and local conditions of any community. When working with Latin American rural communities, projects should be modified and locally monitored, self arbitrated, and in some scenarios, work in public private partnerships. In addition, other activities like identifying leaders, training them whenever possible, fostering the ecological progress, and promoting cooperation mechanisms, will enable a community to take ownership of the project and maintain it in the long-term. The cornerstone to engage in a long term alliance between extractive industries and Coffee industries is defining semantics from two different business perspectives (i.e. coffee and extractive mining) before identifying them in a Conservation plan. In so doing, the mission in the next decade is to gain a coordinated mutual alliance between the coffee farmers and Appalachian’s extractive sector while using a hierarchical mitigation and biodiversity business offsets, along with governments, NGOs, and multilaterals to set measurable objectives for chartering a Conservation Plan with keystone metrics indicators. Let’s bear in mind that mutualism and symbiosis have scientifically been demonstrated as a key driver in evolutionary trends in ecological economics. From a participatory side, there will be several value added benefits in North and South American countries, such as:
fair trade, ecological coffees, better land reclamation practices after open pit mining holes, environment-friendly labels, mitigating climate change in resilient landscapes, enhanced ecological performance of landscapes on both structure and function; sustainable economic development.

USFS: How can your engagement in sustainability be an asset to the community where you operate, as well as to the environment where you operate, as exemplified by the bird community?

AR: As I mentioned before, we will be fostering manifold solutions such as Carbon offsets, green certifications, coffee farming knowledge, web-based applications, sensor webs, apps devs iintegrated networks, and fauna and flora population monitoring with both fieldwork and remote sensing technology tracking features through A-Train Depot NASA satellites, CEOS and WGISS ventures)
Arturo Restrepo Aristizabal
About Our Founder ...

Riding horseback through the Colombian tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) of the native Muiscas from Choachi, “Doors of moon's perceptions,” as a child, I was intrigued by the ecology of the region and the stone engravings left behind by the indigenous inhabitants. In order to foster my curiosity, my father gave me botanical books to key out different species of plants around TMCF. Also, my dad Jose Arturo Restrepo Ospina provided books to me for reading about the Spanish botanical expeditions and Victorian explorers in South America, and he and I would wander down the twisty mountain roads inquiring from the locals about the history of the region. By moonlight, my horse and I spent many nights riding stonepaths in between the forest watching orchids, owls, gnarled shrubs and observing the complex relationship between humans and nature in these highlands.

After spending time studying ecology in college, I noticed that the farmers of Choachi were still using poor land-use practices. For example, they were plowing the land down hill instead of terracing. I tried to explain to the farmers that they were destroying their ability to future farming, but my attempts were futile. That instance was when I learned that in order to suggest better land-use practices; I would have to attempt to challenge their mindset without undermining their culture. As a result, I would accomplish this by delving out the history of the region, and understanding why these poor land-use practices became.

Afterwards, I went back to the university. That semester, I read a book called “landscape ecology”. This book opened up a holistic new side of ecology that I had never considered. For the first time I saw the “big picture,” and I was able to use the integrated knowledge of geography, culture, socioeconomics, and ecosystems from this class to get to the root of the problem with the Choachi farmers. Also, that same semester, one of my professors introduced me to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Using remote sensing and GIS allowed me to look at this watershed on a larger scale and be able to overlay the land-use practices on the landscape over various years. After reading Joan Iverson Nassauer’s, Wade Davis, and Zonneveld’s books, I realized the importance of modeling water and human dimensions in landscape ecology.

Therefore, my Bachelor of Science thesis focused on understanding the relationship among the population, socioeconomic history, water balance, and the rate of change of landscape patterns (i.e. time series deforestation and degradation) in a climate change scenario from 1940, 1960,1985,1993. Through performing this research, I tackled many of the following challenges: fundraising for my research; quality of the time-series aerial photographs; and integrating the findings into one cohesive paper.

After my undergraduate thesis, I realized that ecohydrology, applied ecology, socioeconomics, remote sensing, computer modeling, and policy making were important areas to combine to further environmental solutions. Thus, I volunteered as an intern for the Organization of American States (OAS) located in Washington DC on the project, Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN). During this internship I learned about the lack of discovery data and metadata on biodiversity information across The Americas; therefore, I saw an opportunity to help fill-in that gap. By performing research of how much biodiversity information each institution collected, processed, analyzed and made available via the Internet to the public, I was able to realize the shortcomings of the institutions, and I proposed stop-gap measures to resolve the public policy and technological challenges. Through my work along with an interdisciplinary team of consultants, the project was awarded a grant of six million dollars by the Global Environmental Facility to develop a contributed network on data and web-based services for the first and unique time to grant interoperability about species, specimens, invasive species, ecosystems, protected areas over The Americas, please have access by creating your account at Data Integration and Analysis Gateway at

Furthermore, I accepted a position as a consultant for the OAS and attended an International water seminar at the World Bank about conflicts resolution on transnational waters. This seminar triggered my attendance at UNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands, to obtain a Master of Water Engineering and Environmental Technology. During this time, I revamped my previous undergraduate thesis and focused the work on water. By focusing the thesis on water provision, I realized that I had misguided my previous research focusing the paper chiefly on the human element. The paper made more sense when explaining how water drove the ecological and socioeconomic change of the area. If not a believer of this, just ask yourself about The Dutch Water Boards Policy.

After graduating from UNESCO IHE, I received a position at The Global Change Data Center in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, devoted to working with remote sensing, geospatial, and ecological data analysis and metadata management. At my work, I learned that there were different sensors that I could use to analyze the ecohydrology of the Cloud forest in a regional scope to find that contributes 10% from fog interception into the watershed. Hence, At that time I wanted to focus my research on understanding the role of TMCF in the provision of water to the major cities, regional water and hydro electric power (HEP), and the continued deforestation and degradation effects on energy implications of climate change in these areas. My main objectives were the following: to process and analyze available sets of vegetation, hydrology, and sensor data products for TMCF in Latin America; to investigate Latin America National Archives’ manuscripts about history of TMCF land-use practices and socioeconomic events from1970 – to present in targeted countries; to compile the relevant remote sensing datasets to run the King College London-fiesta fog delivery model for the entire montane cloud forest zone of Latin America, measuring water inputs at the regional water and HEP dams; to analyse the impact of recent climate and land-use changes on the timing and magnitude of water inputs to existing dams; to examine the impact of scenarios for land-use and climate change on water inputs to both the existing and proposed dams; and to analyse the implications for Latin American water resources and the availability of export markets for HEP in mentorship with Dr. Mark Mulligan’s current research at Kings College London.

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