Colombia is one of the top megadiversity nations in the world, with 15% of all known terrestrial species and just 0.8% of the world’s surface area that contains 18 Ecoregions and 65 ecosystem types.
Colombia has the greatest bird diversity in the world with 1,865 bird species, including 193 “Endemic Bird Area” species and 7 species restricted only to Colombia. It is widely recognized that Colombia faces great conservation challenges and large swaths of the country remain biologically little known.
Following the “Threatened Birds of the World” by BirdLife international, 112 species are considered globally threatened with extinction (6.4% of national bird diversity), 40 species were categorized as near threatened and 9 were Data Deficient. Of the 67 endemics, 47 (70%) are Threatened. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are increasing throughout the country and the principal threats for Colombian birds; other important threats include hunting and commercialization.
Birds are the best-known biological group in terms of taxonomy and distribution. Accurate locality-based information of all Colombian bird taxa (to subspecies level) would provide a powerful tool for conservation planning. Limited time and funds is forcing conservation to be selective and cost-efficient. Priority-led action must be based on sound knowledge. However, the paucity of information on biodiversity distribution in many “megadiverse” nations hinders reliable assessments and therefore timely and targeted action. Fieldwork to collect data is necessary but time-consuming, yet a wealth of accessible information exists and is immediately accessible in the form of museum collections – a vast legacy and largely untapped biodiversity resource. Across the world, there are as many as 300,000 Colombian bird specimens, although only 60,000 within Colombia. Each individual specimens holds a large quantity of information, for example its location, taxonomy, and ecology.
Project BioMap is an initiative to establish a complete database of all Colombian bird specimens across the world and provide a new tool for decision-makers. Project BioMap, is conformed of an “Alliance” between all participating collections and led by The Natural History Museum, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales (National University of Colombia) and Conservation International (CABS & CI-Colombia) and supported by the Darwin Initiative of the British Government. This model Alliance is an innovative approach for assimilating and repatriating data to influence better regional and national planning to effectively and cost-efficiently focus research and conservation action in Colombia. Presently we are expanding the taxonomic groups included within Project BioMap, such as amphibians, to further assist research and conservation programs as well as influence national and regional planning to protect one of the world’s great concentrations of biodiversity.