Short description of the area and the land to be purchased
The 58-hectare portion of Galilea we purchased includes: two very well preserved forest patches (11.5 and 18.4 ha), where we have recorded the presence of many animals including Blue-billed curassows, 2) a secondary forest to the north (6.5 ha), 3) a connection 30 m corridor of grasslands, 4) and an isolated grassland to the east for restoration and protection of wetlands.
Reasons to prioritize
The ecosystems of the MMV belong to the threatened Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot and the Magdalena-Urabá moist forests ecoregion, and have high endemism and diversity. As a Pleistocene refugia, the MMV accounts for about 20 percent of Colombian birds (345 species, of which 4 are endemic), rodents (27) and primates (6 species, of which 3 are endemic or near endemic), 33 percent of bats (58), 4 percent of vascular plants (723 species, of which 1 is endemic) and 6 percent of amphibians (42 species, of which 3 are endemic).
As a last stronghold for lowland MMV ecosystems, Barbacoas is considered a conservation priority, critical for lowland endemic species not represented in other protected areas, such as
- Brown spider monkey (Ateles hybridus)—Critically Endangered
- Blue-billed curassow (Crax alberti)—Critically Endangered
- Magdalena river turtle (Podocnemis lewyana)—Critically Endangered
- Varied white-fronted capuchin (Cebus versicolor)—Endangered
- White-footed tamarin (Saguinus leucopus)—Endangered
- Colombian Mahogany (Cariniana pyriformis)—Near Threatened
- Red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)
- Lozano’s salamander (Bolitoglossa lozanoi)
The main threat to the area is deforestation for cattle rearing. Deforestation also causes the drying of wetlands, soil erosion and poorer water retention in the region after rainfall. In 2010 our studies suggested that at the ongoing deforestation rate, the remaining forests of Barbacoas would disappear by 2025. Despite our positive influence in the area, deforestation is still a major threat. It is therefore critical to ensure sufficient protected and connected habitat and to continue to strengthen our presence in the area.
Short-term expansion of the reserve:
Hiring a second forest guard: As much as possible we will try to hire a guard who is currently active on the existing farm.
Marking boundaries: Signs along the boundaries of our reserve will request respect for the natural environment and prohibit hunting. We will erect fences where necessary (for example, to keep out cattle), using sustainable and cost-effective living fences. We will connect the forest patches to each other and to the main forest patch of Rancho Verde, which we recently acquired, in order to establish biodiversity corridors.
Land-use planning: Aerial surveys and mapping will be used to set up a land-use plan for biological corridors, further active and passive areas for reforestation and sustainable agroforestry zones.
Registration of the expansion with Colombia’s National Parks: El Silencio is registered as a Natural Reserve of the Civil Society and part of the National System of Protected Areas. The proposed expansion and its land-use plan would be incorporated within the reserve.
Mid-term activities (within a year):
Monitoring boundaries and activities within the reserve: Our forest guards will patrol the reserve to check for illegal logging and hunting, while maintaining tracks inside the forests.
Reforestation: We will place a particular emphasis on increasing the populations of trees that are important food sources for Brown spider monkeys and Blue-billed curassows, as well as threatened plant species.
Visitor infrastructure: In addition to our existing El Silencio Research Station, we will build infrastructure, such as bridges and forest paths for visiting researchers and ecotourism.
Long-term options to develop sustainable income:
Ecotourism: This expansion makes the reserve much more interesting as an ecotourist destination. Tourists would enjoy excursions into the forest as well as ecofriendly boat excursions (e.g., canoe trips). Development will be carried out with limited impact on the environment and in collaboration with the local community, for which it could generate employment opportunities.
Visiting researchers: A larger reserve will also be of greater interest to national and international researchers, such as primatologists and ornithologists. A stable group of resident researchers, or ones that return on a regular basis, is a reliable source of income and information. At present we have arrangements for researchers with students to visit the reserve and use our existing research station, and we envisage an expansion of such arrangements.
Sustainable productive practices: We aim to research sustainable productive practices, including sustainable agroforestry, non-timber products and silvopastoral systems. These practices would not only serve as demonstrations or pilot projects for local landowners but would also generate income for the reserve while restoring the soils, protecting water courses and promoting biodiversity.
Friends of El Silencio: We will set up a fundraising scheme, whereby the public can become “friends” of the reserve for a monthly fee, endowing them with benefits (for example, a number of free nights at the reserve). We want to set this up as a tax-deductable venture, which is especially attractive for companies.
Payment for environmental goods and services, including carbon capture: In 2018 FBC is starting a carbon project in the Barbacoas area, funded by ISA, a Colombian electricity company, and in collaboration with South Pole and Panthera Foundation.The purpose is to generate incentives for conservation (avoiding deforestation), restoration and more sustainable practices for landowners through the verification and allocation of VCS/CCBS carbon credits. This project will not only contribute to our regional conservation and restoration plans but will also provide a regular income for the reserve and other projects in the area. We have also been discussing with the municipality the possibility of creating tax exemptions for conservation, using Barbacoas as a pilot area.