Biodiversity and Development Initiatives

The Andes - Amazonia corridor is a strategic zone in the Putumayo Department that hosts the greatest diversity of ecosystems in the Colombian Amazon.

This biological diversity of fauna and flora is complemented by great cultural richness represented by the presence of Indigenous communities and Afro-descendants. As the largest oil and gas operator in the Putumayo, Gran Tierra is committed to protecting the area’s biodiversity and has adopted a strategy to coordinate its efforts with other organizations to maximize their regional impact. This strategy has led GTE to enter into partnerships and alliances with organizations with similar goals.

A Partnership with the Humboldt Institute

Gran Tierra partnered with the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute on a project that is contributing to the understanding of biodiversity in the Putumayo and addressing concerns about industrial development in the area. Colombia has highly biodiverse areas, with large numbers of plant species, microorganisms, and fungi. However, some of the country’s ecosystems have deteriorated tremendously due to agriculture and livestock activities, urban expansion, illegal mining and illegal land practices.

The Humboldt Institute is an independent non-regulatory research institute of the Executive Branch of the Government of Colombia. It is charged with conducting scientific research on the biodiversity of the country, including hydrobiology and genetic research. The Institute often provides the national environmental agency, ANLA, with unbiased research and information to inform their policymaking.

The joint GTE-Humboldt Institute Chawar Project is a regional environmental assessment which will create a technical tool to track and monitor biodiversity changes in the Putumayo, especially in the Andean foothills. The project is part of GTE’s efforts to help the country proactively develop an understanding of species that need to be protected, and it will allow the company to better consider environmental issues when determining how and where to plan development.

The Chawar decision support system incorporates and overlays a wide range of data sets including biodiversity, ecosystem services, and social and cultural information. This system will provide a basis for real-time analysis and interpretation of how these factors interact now and in the future with proposed project design. It will also show how compensation for the company’s voluntary environmental and social investments can be structured to have the greatest impact on specific areas of interest as well as the broader region for years to come.

The effort has already identified a number of projects that are being implemented in the area by other companies. Humboldt hopes the assessment will lead to other companies and industries designing development that creates less impact and requires less environmental mitigation compensation.

An Alliance with ANDI

ANDI (the National Business Association of Colombia), Gran Tierra, the National Natural Parks of Colombia and the Humboldt Biological Research Institute, have partnered together in an alliance that is focused on ecosystem protection, restoration and connectivity, sustainable development of biodiversity and promoting sustainable development in the region.

The alliance’s accomplishments thus far include:

  • National Parks of Colombia and Gran Tierra are currently working together to create a framework for conservation agreements in protected areas.
  • GTE’s Costayaco Forestry Centre has supported the ecosystem connectivity strategy by restoring and protecting 314.5 hectares.
  • Ongoing coordination of environmental investments.

Amazon Butterfly Species Guidebook

Gran Tierra partnered with Corpoamazonia, the Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Southern Amazon, to produce the first guidebook of the approximately 145 species of butterflies that exist in the Amazon piedmont. This study and cataloguing is a significant step in developing management and conservation practices for these species with high potential for scientific research and tourism.

Protecting Flora and Fauna on World Environmental Day

In 2018, Gran Tierra and CORPOCESAR (the Environmental Authority of the Department of Cesar) observed World Environmental Day by evaluating whether the company’s La Esperanza site near the town of San Martín could be used for successful releases of rehabilitated wildlife. Company employees and contractors and CORPOCESAR employees also planted 100 endangered trees near GTE’s Acordionero camp. The company transferred to CORPOCESAR 25 hectares of land that are in the process of being reforested.

Bird Experts Support Biodiversity by Fighting Deforestation

In 2017 GTE hosted at its Costayaco Forestry Centre and other locations the 30th National Meeting of Ornithology (ENO) and a gathering of representatives from 40 public and private institutions. The meeting’s focus, “A Biodiversity and Development Initiative for the Putumayo,” was a major first step in creating an agreement to generate a sustained regional effort to combat one of the major challenges the region faces—deforestation. The agreement was first proposed by ANDI, the National Business Association of Colombia, which serves as a liaison between environmental initiatives and industry. It promotes programs of conservation, restoration, sustainable use and knowledge management and monitoring.

With many bird lovers in attendance, the future of the 750 species of birds which inhabit the area became an issue that helped drive discussion of all the environmental issues that Putumayo faces.

The meeting included the first ornithology summit in the Putumayo. Four initiatives emerged from the summit:

  • Begin work on creating a nature corridor that connects the Andes Piedmont and the Amazon Rainforest.
  • Promote birdwatching, and developing publications related to bird knowledge.
  • Make birdwatching a formal activity under tourism regulations.
  • Create the first multi-company biodiversity monitoring initiative in Colombia.

Because Gran Tierra recognizes that illegal crops and tree-felling throughout the Putumayo are due to lack of revenue alternatives and have resulted in significant deforestation of large areas, it is working on multiple levels to help develop production alternatives in the area.

We believe that responsible development can be done without being in conflict with nature, and we also strongly believe that oil is an engine that will bring about new opportunities in the territory. This is one of the first initiatives of its type, and while GTE came to the table first, we are bringing additional partners to the table to adopt this pilot around the country. GTE is making a big investment in the area and this means it has a big opportunity to make an impact. It’s been a long process to get to this point and the company has demonstrated its commitment to this environmental responsibility by staying engaged and proactive.

DORA MONCADA, Environmental Affairs Coordinator, ANDI