BioTerra: The new biodiversity monitoring system being developed by USAID Natural Wealth Program

BioTerra is an innovative biodiversity monitoring system developed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Natural Wealth Program in collaboration with its partners – the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute (IAvH) – to support the Government of Colombia monitor biodiversity. This new system seeks to complement existing biodiversity monitoring activities in Colombia and strengthen ecosystem’s threats response, at the national and regional levels.

por | May 16, 2018


BioTerra’s Goals

BioTerra is a collaborative system that aims to measure the effectiveness of the Program’s conservation, restoration, and sustainable development activities as means to achieve biodiversity conservation. Bioterra specific objectives are:

  1. Develop a precise, timely and replicable system that monitors biodiversity, land cover changes, and ecosystems’ main threats.
  2. Generate information for decision makers and strengthen local and governmental capacities to identify and execute mitigation measures.
  3. Measure the impact on biodiversity conservation across the Program’s implementation components – increasing protected areas, strengthening environmental governance, and creating economic incentives for sustainable development.

BioTerra’s Methodology

BioTerra combines scientific methodologies such as analysis of satellite imagery and traditional biodiversity sampling, with participatory methodologies. The system’s goal is to generate timely information and improve decision makers’ responses to threats faced by ecosystems and biodiversity at a regional and local levels.

BioTerra seeks to be a multiscale, multilevel system, operating on a “top-down” (top-down) and “bottom-up” approach (bottom-up) integrating 3 levels. Level 1 – reports early warnings for land cover loss and impacts regarding biodiversity distribution at a regional level. Level 2 – validates level 1 early warnings and determines through fieldwork the main threats to ecosystems. Finally, level 3 – conducts analysis based on scientific

measurements from local communities on dynamics of local fauna and threats to ecosystems. (See figure).

Level 1: Near-real time alerts of loss of coverage and regionalized distribution models

During this Program’s first year of implementation, the Humboldt Institute and CIAT worked on level 1, which requires the technical and operational integration of BioModelos and Terra-i, to generate by region distribution models of species (prioritized by the community), and early warnings of natural cover loss. The integration between BioModelos and Terra-i will allow to identify biodiversity’s current state indicators at departmental level in the Program’s conservation landscapes.

Level 2: Early warnings validation and biodiversity threats identification

Using GPS coordinates from Level 1 early warnings, fieldwork will be conducted at least once a year per conservation landscape. Furthermore, during fieldwork, the team will identify biodiversity’s main threats. To validate early warnings, three main activities will be conducted: (1) identification of main biodiversity threats at a regional scale, (2) regional assessments of biodiversity, and (3) validation of early warnings of natural cover loss and loss’ drivers.

Level 3: Biodiversity survey and community reports

Field work is conducted on Level 3 to survey biodiversity. This is done based on a participatory science approach combining traditional methodologies of biodiversity sampling with qualitative research methodologies and tools such as interviews, dialogues with local communities, social cartography, training and monitoring mobile applications. BioTerra expects to generate spaces for inclusive participation with men and women from rural and urban areas in registering, processing, and interpreting data.

Bioterra’s results reporting

BioTerra’s results will be shared through a web page, where geographic data and statistics of early warnings can be downloaded. In addition, USAID Natural Wealth Program will distribute a quarterly newsletter to regional environmental authorities within the Program’s intervention areas.

BioTerra will generate knowledge on the status of a variety of species, their responses to local environmental threats, people’s perceptions of biodiversity within each landscape, and forecast future results resulting from activities implemented by the Program to safeguard Colombia’s biodiversity.

USAID Natural Wealth Program is a five-year project (2017 – 2022) that works to conserve biodiversity by integrating economic and social activities with innovative preservation strategies.

Contact us

To get more information on USAID Natural Wealth Program or about BioTerra, contact:


Marcela Quintero

Marcela Quintero

Theme Leader in Ecosystem Services in the Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area (DAPA)
Hernando García

Hernando García

Subdirector of Investigations. The Alexander von Humboldt Institute

“This publication is possible thanks to the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of Chemonics International and CIAT, and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the Government of the United States. ”

Content and design by Karolina Argote, CIAT
Translation by Andrés Rueda, Programa Riqueza Natural