In situ conservation of threatened trees of Colombia Special focus on endemic and endangered species of Fagaceae and Juglandaceae

Project: Research Project

Project Details


Due to their natural history, area of distribution and state of conservation, Trigonobalanus excelsa forests constitute one of the most unique ecosystems in the lower montane forests in the Andean region of Colombia (Parra-Aldana et al. 2013). This species is considered a relict species since the genus Trigonobalanus Forman, has a disjunct distribution in the tropics with only one species in Colombia and two species is Southeast Asia (Van der Hammen & Cleef 1983). It has been hypothesized that Trigonobalanus originated in North America and arrived in Colombia after migrations through Central America and crossing the Isthmus of Panama during the Late Tertiary (Van der Hammen & Cleef 1983, Avella et al. 2017). The T. excelsa forests are located in the Colombian Massif, geographic area which is renown by its importance as a water regulator given that four of the most important rivers in the country originate there. In addition, this area is considered a geographic barrier separating two contrasting biogeographic regions (Hazzi et al. 2018) and therefore supports an immense amount of unique biodiversity. Trigonobalanus excelsa forms monodominant stands where this species accounts for more than 50% of all the individuals in the forest. This is a special type of forest given that tropical forests are renowned for their high abundance of rare species and diversity. Trigonobalanus excelsa also associates with ectomycorrhizal fungi, which are completely different in terms of their ecology and taxonomy to most mycorrhizal symbiosis formed by tree species in the tropics (Corrales et al. 2018). To add to its ecological importance, Trigonobalanus excelsa forests hold higher above ground biomass than most lowland forests (401.4 ± 247.4 kg ha-1 in Trigonobalanus excelsa vs 227.7 ± 77.8 kg ha-1 in lowland forest; Gonzalez- Caro et al. 2020), showing how important these forests are for the conservation of tropical Andean ecosystems. Trigonobalanus excelsa dominant forest are threatened by land use change in their area of distribution. In Colombia mountain ecosystems support many economic activities such as agricultura (mostly traditional coffee plantations in this area) and extensive cattle production (Etter et al. 2006, Forero 2010, Parra-Aldana et al. 2011, Aguirre-Acosta et al. 2020). In addition, this species has high quality wood and therefore suffers from logging and overexploitation (Aguirre-Acosta et al. 2020). Further, the recent peace agreement has brought with it a large-scale agricultural expansión associated with the post conflict dynamics (Clerici et al. 2018) and therefore we expect Trigonobalanus excelsa populations to be under unexpected pressures in the short term (Aguirre-Acosta et al. 2020). Regarding Juglans neotropica, less research has been done with this species and the status of its populations is unknown. Even though this species is distributed throughout the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia, declines in habitat have been considerable and the species continues to be exploited for its timber (IUCN 1998). Cardenas & Salinas (2006) report that 52% of the populations of this species have suffered intensive overexploitation for timber. In addition, a protocol for its propagation for commercial use was published by Toro- Vanegas & Roldan-Rojas (2018). However, to date there have not been reports of establishment of commercial plantations or restoration efforts in Colombia.


Trigonobalanus excelsa forests, Ectomycorrhizal fungi

Commitments / Obligations

• Workshops delivered to local communities (10 workshops)
• Updated and improved management plans for in-situ conservation (10)
• Propagation protocols for Trigonobalanus excelsa (1)
• Submitted manuscripts (2)
Effective start/end date7/15/217/15/24

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Main Funding Source

  • International


  • Bogotá D.C.


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