Land Purchase Protects Rare Magnolias in the Colombian Andes

Lauren Colegrove

Jul 13, 2017

NewsProtected Areas

The expansion of Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve safeguards vital habitat in the biodiverse Andes for Critically Endangered and Endangered plant species.

  • A flower of the Ventanas Magnolia tree, of which only 25 individuals remain in the world. Photo courtesty of Salvamontes Corporation.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Salvamontes Corporation worked to expand Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve by 120 acres this June, strategically linking a vital biological corridor in Colombia’s Antioquia district. The purchase and protection of this area prevented the conversion of the site’s forests to pasture land, which has been incredibly detrimental to the region’s biodiversity.

The Alto de Ventanas ecoregion provides habitat for rare magnolias and at least 13 Critically Endangered or Endangered orchid species, at least two of which are considered to be new to science (Lepanthes spp.). The protected expansion contains 32 percent of the global population of the Ventanas Magnolia (Magnolia polyhypsophylla), the most endangered tree species in the region with only 25 adult individuals known in the world. This site is also home to seven endemic bird species, one endemic amphibian species and 26 narrow endemic plant species. The Critically Endangered Handley’s Slender Mouse Opossum is likely to be found in the expansion as well, as it was recently collected less than a mile from the site. It is also suspected that a Critically Endangered frog species (Niceforonia adenobrachia) also occurs in this area.

  • The Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve contains numerous species of orchids such as this Lepanthes culex. Photo courtesty of Salvamontes Corporation.

“Timing was of the essence with this land purchase,” said Dr. George E. Wallace, Chief Conservation Officer of Rainforest Trust.

“The pace of deforestation and conversion of ranch land in this region is so rapid and the value of this area for threatened species, especially plants, is so high that it was critical to bring the land under protection.”

This 120-acre expansion has greatly contributed to the creation of a protected biological corridor, with the goal of safeguarding 2,471 acres by 2020. Salvamontes Corporation will reintroduce plant species such as the Critically Endangered Ventanas Magnolia and Endangered Yarumal Magnolia to the expanded site, and the creation of a commercial nursery of native and ornamental species will help financially support the management of the reserve. In addition, the conservation group will engage in community outreach and environmental education programs to promote the creation of nature reserves and consolidation of biological corridors in the Alto de Ventanas region.

  • Community outreach and environmental education initiatives will accompany the new reserve. Photo courtesty of Salvamontes Corporation.

Learn more about Colombia’s Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve.