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The beginning of the RLE for the marine and coastal territory of Colombia

19 / Jan / 2021Risk Assessments

The beginning of the RLE for the marine and coastal territory of Colombia

Two new assessments were carried out for the Colombian coastal-marine ecosystems. Despite these efforts, there is a long way to go in investigating the risk of collapse.

The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is a theoretical framework for evaluating the risk of ecosystem collapse, which has already been implemented in different regions and countries on the 5 continents. The number of RLE assessments continues to grow, and it is now possible to find assessments at different spatial scales and for a wide variety of ecosystems.

In Colombia, the first assessment was carried out for continental terrestrial ecosystems. This evaluation process opened a new line of research for the country. However, 50% of the Colombian territory is submerged under the ocean, which required the analysis of marine and coastal ecosystems. So far two evaluations have been carried out:

Risk assessment of coral ecosystems in the Colombian Caribbean

This first assessment, supported by the “Pontificia Universidad Javeriana”, was carried out with the purpose of applying the RLE methodology for the first time in the country's marine environments. But at the beginning of the assessment, a very important question arose, what is the most appropriate scale to apply this methodology? To solve this, it was proposed to carry out a multiscale evaluation, something innovative in the RLE assessments, in which the criteria were applied and the results were compared at three different spatial scales:

  • National: all coral ecosystems in the study area were considered a single ecosystem.

  • Ecoregional: the ecosystems were grouped into two different units: oceanic coral ecosystems and continental coral ecosystems.

  • Biotics: 14 units based on biotic groups were considered.

As a result, it was obtained that the risk categories vary from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered (VU-CR) in the different units assessed and according to the scale used. It was concluded that the most general scales hide important risk dynamics, and the more specific ones tend to overestimate the spatial risk; therefore, in the case of the coral ecosystems of the Colombian Caribbean, the most representative scale was the ecoregional one. All the technical details of the research can be consulted at: (free access link until December 21, 2020).

Red List of Marine and Coastal Ecosystems of Colombia (Version 1)

Based on what was learned, with funding from Conservation International and with technical support from INVEMAR, the RLE was implemented for the most studied marine and coastal ecosystems in Colombia. The purpose was to carry out an evaluation based on the existing information to date and detect information gaps.

It was found that the level of risk varies from “Lesser Precaution” (LC) to “Critically Endangered” (CR), and that the “Endangered” (EN) category was the most frequent and the one that occupies the largest area of territory. This research is in the process of being published and its details can be consulted in the technical document, available at:


Marine and coastal environments of the NNP Gorgona, Colombian Pacific


Although in this first phase it was shown that the information available to date includes very important efforts at the national level, in a second phase, it is a priority to produce new inputs in order to generate a more robust RLE for the country. For example, in most cases it is not possible to cover the reference time frames completely, so projections and use of data modeling tools must be made.

Finally, the most important lesson in this new line of work in Colombia is that this assessment process is not a matter for a few; The RLE evaluation protocol covers different aspects that must be approached in an interdisciplinary way. Without the support of the various institutions and their researchers, it would have been impossible to complete these assessments. From these efforts, it was possible to link a group of 20 experts in the different ecosystems of the country. However, more efforts must be made to consolidate a national network of assessors.

Written by: Edwin Uribe




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