New national park designated in Colombia
The declaration of the park, covering an area of 78,387ha of paramos (high grasslands), cloud forests, and sub-Andean forests, brings the total number of protected areas within Colombia's national parks system to 51, representing 10,330,244ha of conservation areas throughout the country.
"The establishment of new protected areas is a fundamental baseline to ensure that all types of ecosystems have some kind of conservation status and protection," said Mary Lou Higgins of WWF Colombia.
"The declaration of the Serranía de los Yariguíes represents a significant step forward with respect to the conservation of the northern Colombian Andes."
Located on the west flank of the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, the Serranía de los Yariguíes provides a significant water source for the department of Santander and feeds important river basins such as the Magdalena.
The new park is home several large mammals such as the spectacled bear and more than half of the bird species recorded in Colombia, as well as amphibian and plant species – some of which are only just starting to be studied. Forest species such as South American oak, guacharaco, and tomatillo are also found in the new protected area.
"The national parks system is protecting a strategic region for the generation of environmental goods and services in Santander," stated Fabio Villamizar, director of the Northern Andean Section of Colombia's National Parks Authority.
"The Serranía de los Yariguíes, the largest national park in the Department of Santander, will act as a natural barrier regulating climate in the area, as well as being a water source for wetlands in the Magdalena Medio region."
In recognition of the new park’s importance and biological diversity, the area was included within the debt for nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) signed by the governments of the United States and Colombia in April 2004. WWF, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy also participated in forging the above deal, providing funds to make the agreement possible.
"The declaration of this protected area is the result of a long process of coordination which will facilitate the effective management of the area and is an important step towards ensuring biodiversity conservation in large regions of the country," added Mary Lou Higgins.
The Serrania de los Yariguíes was identified as a priority area for conservation within the Northern Andes ecoregional vision. Conservation of this area guarantees the maintenance of a wealth of biodiversity and the continuance of important ecological processes, such as flyways for migratory birds on their way to other regions of the Andes, and the provision of environmental services for local communities.
• The debt for nature swap was conceived under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), created to help countries with significant areas of tropical forest to reduce their debt with the United States government, while at the same time protecting their forests. By signing the deal, Colombia reduces the amount of debt with the United States in exchange for conservation actions in the country’s tropical forests.
• As well as covering the Serranía de las Yariguíes, the debt for nature swap also covers areas such as the national parks of Tinigua, Sumapaz, Guanentá, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Tayrona, Isla Salamanca, Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, Los Flamencos, and El Tuparro.
• The Northern Andean Ecoregional Complex is located along 2000km of the tropical Andes, covering an area bordered by the Cordillera de Mérida (Venezuela) in the north-easter and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the north (Colombia) to the Huancabamba Depression (Peru) in the south. The latter constitutes a geographical barrier for many species, separating the Northern Andes from other mountainous ecosystems to the south of the continent.
• WWF has been working on conservation activities in Colombia since 1964. WWF Colombia works in the Chocó region, Northern Andes, and Orinoco Basin, coordinating its conservation and sustainable development strategies with strategies related to environmental education, capacity building, environmental policy, and communications.
For further information:
Maria Ximena Galeano, Communications
WWF Colombia Programme Office