Protecting Colombia’s extraordinary Orchid Biodiversity: Horticulture and biotechnology as strategies for in-situ and ex-situ conservation

Colombia has the highest number of endemic orchids worldwide and some remain unknown to science. Orchids are flagship species that can help promote Andean forests conservation and ecosystem services but many species are endemic to restricted regions and threatened by rapid habitat loss and low tolerance to climatic changes. While private collectors have impressive ex-situ living collections and abundant natural history data, this information is not currently organized or accessible. The lack of basic knowledge and in-situ conservation status of many species is truly worrisome.

This talk aims to communicate an initiative taking place among two Colombian institutions — The Center for Biological Research and the Colombian Orchid Society — which is implementing a program for the orchids conservation through in-situ and ex-situ conservation, integrating the use of technology with active participation of communities, including:

  • Advancing phylogenomic studies and population genetics in groups with high endemism and diversity in Colombia (Cymbideae tribe, and the genera Lepanthes, Dracula and Masdevallia);
  • Implementing a virtual herbarium of living collections and genetic material at Humboldt Institute’s tissue bank;
  • Monitoring orchids using technology (provided by a UK NGO, Arribada Initiative) at La Reserva Orquídeas, in Antioquia;
  • And understanding the legal and illegal orchid trade in Colombia.

These activities are being carried out through participatory science and will also allow to promote conservation and sustainable use for many species as established by the Colombia Orchid Conservation Strategy.

All welcome to attend this seminar.

Dr Tatiana Arias is interested in the study of Colombian orchid’s genetic biodiversity and conservation. Tatiana has a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Missouri and, after graduating, she accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Hong Kong. Tatiana is now the leader of the Comparative Biology group at The Center for Biological Research (CIB) in Medellin, Colombia. She has recently been awarded the Young Colombian Scientist distinction by the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences and the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). Tatiana is currently an Oxford Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade and a trained Plant Scientist.

Follow Tatiana on Twitter: @TatianaAriasGar