SNAPP TEAM:Land Use Change in the Orinoquía
How can stakeholders meet agricultural development goals while maintaining natural benefits associated with the savanna biome of Colombia’s Eastern Plains?

The Orinoquía region of Colombia, the second largest savanna system in South America, faces an agricultural development boom that could threaten biodiversity and ecosystem services. Agricultural organizations have teamed up with scientists and conservation planners to help the government evaluate the impacts of land use change and potential consequences for nature and people.


OUR APPROACH: The team collaborated with partners and stakeholders to synthesize data related to ecosystem services, land use, digital soil mapping, biodiversity, and hydrology, and to track potential development projects.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenge: Food and Freshwater

Datasets and Maps of Biodiversity and Soil

The team created a data set of vertebrate species and plants associated with different crops in the Orinoquía Region, as well as detailed soil carbon and land-use maps that are available on the web at their Orinoquía Dashboard. These data sets and maps will inform future land-use planners on how to work with the environment rather than to disregard it, while also developing the region.

A Decision Support Framework

The team recognizes that land-use change is inevitable in under-developed regions, such as the Orinoquía, so they developed a framework that takes into account competing economic and environmental objectives in order to suggest action plans. Through using spatial analysis, the team can address agricultural production value, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem services retention within their framework. The two categories of outputs of the framework are spatially explicit solutions that zone each commodity and natural areas, and trade-off analyses of competing objectives.


“This work demonstrates the power of existing data and knowledge for developing innovative approaches to help decision-makers pursue development measures and maximize ecosystem services.”

– Mayesse Da Silva, Project co-leader

Key Products
Approximating Soil Organic Carbon Stock in the Eastern Plains of Colombia

This study estimates the soil organic carbon stock in the topsoil of the Eastern Plains of Colombia as agricultural and pastureland expansion continues to exert increasing pressure on the structure and ecological processes of its savannahs.

Hydrological Modeling for Multifunctional Landscape Planning in Colombian Orinoquía

This peer-reviewed research paper provides a general methodological framework for hydrological analysis at macro-basin scale with a focus on the savanna ecosystems in Colombia’s Orinoquía region, a conservation area with significant plans for agro-industrial expansion.

Minimising biodiversity and ecosystem service loss in an intact landscape at risk of agricultural development

In this piece published in Environmental Research Letters, the authors present a land-use planning framework to be used in relatively intact areas where development is inevitable, in order to minimize impacts on the environment.

Orinoquía Dashboard

A team created website where project components have been published and will continue to be published as they gain more permission to share data.

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Mayesse Da Silva
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
German Forero-Medina
Wildlife Conservation Society
Glenn Hyman
Spatial Informatics Group
Tomas Walschburger
The Nature Conservancy
Silvia Alvaréz
Wildlife Conservation Society
Tatiana Escovar
Colombia National Planning Department
Hedley Grantham
Wildlife Conservation Society
Carlos Rogeliz
The Nature Conservancy
Brooke Williams
University of Queensland
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