Sustaining Quercus humboltii and Colombobalanus excelsa on the Colombian landscape: preservation or conservation - a research perspective
The Tropical Andes in Colombia is in the top 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world (Myers and others 2000). It has the highest level of species endemism in the world and they comprise 12 percent of the world's species. Humans have lived in the Colombian Andes for over 12,000 years. Population estimates of native peoples at the time of Spanish contact range between 3 to 5 million and about 60 percent of them lived in the Andes (Colmenares 1997, Etter and van Wyngaarden 2000). Today, about 45 million people call Colombia home, and 66 percent of them live in the Andes (Etter and van Wyngaarden 2000). Over the past several thousand years, the Andes region has progressively become a highly fragmented landscape, where only 30 percent or less of the original forest cover remains (Etter 1993, Cavelier and Etter 1995, Armenteras and others 2003, Etter and others 2006). Deforestation and conversion to agricultural land uses have eliminated much of the native ecosystems in the Andes region. Brooks and others (2002) state that the extent of habitat loss is a good predictor of the number of threatened or extinct endemic species because many biologists recognize fragmentation of habitat and its loss as the principal cause of biodiversity loss in the world (Armenteras and others 2003).