Triangular cooperation between Mexico, Colombia and Germany: Monitoring land use change and the impacts of climate change on biodiversity

Project description

Project title: Regional fund for the promotion of triangular cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean – individual measure: Monitoring land use change and the impacts of climate change on biodiversity
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Colombia (recipient country), Mexico (partner country)
Overall term: 2013 to 2015


Around the world, clearing of natural forests is leading to a loss of biodiversity, with an increasing number of plants and animals facing extinction. This has particularly severe consequences for megadiverse countries like Mexico and Colombia, which are home to a large share of global biodiversity.

Since 1998, Mexico’s National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) has established a department that assesses interventions in ecosystems. From the beginning, it has received support from German development cooperation experts. Originally set up with the aim of detecting wildfires, the department is now also monitoring coral reefs, mangroves, animal life, and disturbances to vegetation. High-resolution satellite imagery as well as on-the-ground cameras and microphones are used for these purposes. Recently, a powerful computer system became available for identifying deforestation and land use change, and is capable of evaluating five years of data within a few days.

Monitoring is an essential instrument for the Mexican Government to assess the impacts of climate change within the country. It is likewise an important element of the national MRV system (monitoring, reporting and verification) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its forest conservation programme, REDD+. Within Latin America, Mexico is taking a leading role in monitoring; several countries have indicated strong interest in cooperation.


With support under a triangular cooperation arrangement with Mexico and Germany, Colombian authorities introduce a monitoring system that rapidly provides informative data about ecosystem interventions. It is part of the national MRV system within the context of REDD+.


Colombia is benefiting from the experience that Mexico and Germany have gained in over 15 years of international cooperation on environmental monitoring. CONABIO and Mexico’s National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) have the technical expertise and are cooperating with the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) and GIZ. They are assisting the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) and the Ministry of Environment with establishing an earth observation department based on the Mexican model. With the computer system, which assesses high-resolution satellite imagery and changes in land use against the previous year, the Mexican project partners are helping to speed up and add precision to the Colombian procedure. They are providing IDEAM staff with information about the necessary hardware and software specifications and training them on how to operate the system.

In addition, they are establishing common standards for mapping. This is necessary to enable comparisons between reporting on deforestation and climate change impacts on the biodiversity in Mexico and Colombia. Depending on the estimate, global forest loss due to fire and unsustainable forestry practices accounts for 17 to 28 per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and therefore contributes to global warming.


The partners conducted a test run with data from 2000 and 2010. As a result, Colombia has exact statistics on deforestation, degradation and reforestation over this period in time. The data and maps were officially presented in the country.

Upon conclusion of this triangular cooperation measure, IDEAM will be in a position to create land use and vegetation maps that are updated on an annual basis and, with a 1:20,000 scale, will provide around 20 times as much detail as previously produced materials. These maps clearly illustrate the extent of deforestation and ecosystem degradation, and therefore provide a precise basis for planning efforts. The Colombian Government can draw on this to formulate improved legislation on the protection of biodiversity and climate change mitigation.

Within the context of scientific cooperation in the Pacific Alliance, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico recently decided to introduce the earth observation system in all member states, and to thereby build up a regional monitoring system.

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