News

WHY IS COLOMBIA SO BIODIVERSE?

Colombia, as is well known, is extremely biodiverse. In all the media, our diversity is promoted; the number 1 country in birds and orchids, number 2 in plants, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish, number 3 in palms and reptiles. The list goes on, positioning Colombia as the country with the greatest diversity of species per square meter on the planet. Why? What explains such an amazing convergence of life forms in a territory? Well, here I will mention, in a very general way, three of the reasons why Colombia is so special: its biogeographic history, its topography and its location. 

To explain why Colombia is so biodiverse, it is first necessary to understand what is biodiversity. This concept appeared in the 1980s with the growing concern about the loss of species on the planet and it can be defined, very briefly, as the variety of life in a certain area. This variety is currently understood in three general aspects: species diversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem diversity. And what does this indicate about Colombia? Not only do we have a great richness of animals, plants, mushrooms, bacteria, etc. as a result of an enormous genetic richness, but also these species are grouped under very contrasting environmental conditions, creating a diversity of ecosystems ranging from deserts to humid jungles, or from savannas to snowy mountains. 

Now I will explain why Colombia is so Biodiverse, starting with the biogeographic history (biogeography is the science that studies the distribution of species). In order to do this, it is necessary to talk about the history of the continents, based on the fact that they have always been moving. When Pangea (the supercontinent) was divided into Gondwana and Laurasia, South America was attached to Africa, India and even Australia, developing a biota quite different from North America, which was initially attached to Europe and Asia. And why does this explain a greater diversity in Colombia than in the rest of South America? For the isthmus of Panama. Colombia is the gateway to the continent and when a connection was created between North and South America, a mixture of very contrasting biota was produced, a mixture initially generated in the Colombian territory. 

Now, everything would have been different if that agglomeration of species had occurred in a flat and homogeneous place, but no! It happened in a territory with an incredible diversity of geoforms. Colombia is an absolutely impressive country in terms of landscape diversity. Here the Andes is divided in three, so we have three mountain ranges and two inter-Andean valleys, each of them with very particular characteristics. We have the rainiest place on the entire planet and at the same time we have deserts with sand dunes that look like the Sahara. Our mountains reach almost 6000 masl. We have plains at 3000m that look like Siberia and sea level plains that look like Kenya. Added to this, we are in the Tropics! There are no seasons here and therefore the climate is relatively stable throughout the year. We don’t go from freezing in winter to melting in summer. Here, where it’s cold, it’s cold all year round and where it’s hot, it’s hot all year round. This favors that each place in Colombia maintains a stable climate and the species can adapt to the conditions of each place.

So, put yourselves in the role of the species that came together in this territory, where there was room for everyone and the climate was stable on every thermal floor. In fact, the diversity of places to live was so high and the climate in each one was so stable that it favored speciation processes, where a single species led to several (a process that will be explained in a future blog), exponentially increasing the richness of species in Colombia and making it the most biodiverse territory on the planet.

So, I can only invite you to know this heaven on earth that I call home. A country where you can live the 4 seasons in a single day and where you can know almost all the ecosystems of the planet in a single trip. If what you are looking for is nature, Colombia is waiting for you.