©César David Martinez

Colombian Forests

25 million hectares of incredible biodiversity protected by our partners WWF, WCS and Heritage Colombia.

Help Trillion Trees protect 25 million hectares of the world’s most biodiverse, carbon-rich rainforests, working with Herencia Colombia.

Our Impact

Trillion Trees is supporting Herencia Colombia (HECO) , the National Parks Service  and other local partners, designing targeted strategies to reduce forest loss in and around protected areas, and working with the Colombian government on sustainable finance mechanisms. 

Our work here is helping conserve biological diversity effectively in protected areas – including jaguar habitat and free-flowing rivers for dolphins and migratory fish. It is also helping strengthen participatory governance at the local, national, regional and international levels – particularly the recognition of indigenous organisations.

Our Target

  • Add 3.5 million hectares to Colombia’s National Protected Area System by 2030
  • Ensure a basic level of management in an additional 14 million hectares of recently created protected areas by 2030
  • Permanently protect a total of 20 million hectares of forests and other natural landscapes by 2030
  • Improve conservation across 48.6m hectares of forest – including crucial jaguar habitat and landscape connectivity
  • Prevent emissions of 23.8 million tons of CO2eq by 2030, and 114 million tons of CO2eq by 2050
  • Ensure finance is in place so the Colombian National Parks service is better resourced for the next 10 years

How We Work

We are helping improve resourcing, promote forest-friendly livelihoods, minimise damage from farming, fishing and mining, prevent floods and landslides, and address climate change.

Herencia Colombia (which translates as Heritage Colombia, called HECO for short) is a transformative, science-based initiative that aims to expand, secure, and sustainably finance the country’s National Protected Area System. And improve the management of the surrounding landscapes. 

At the core of HECO is an innovative approach to conservation financing known as Project Finance for Permanence. This ‘deal’ between governments, donors and civil society unlocks resources and commitments on the massive scale that’s needed for effective long-term management of large conservation projects. 

The approach contributes to:

  • Reducing land and resource conflicts in the Amazon
  • Halting further forest loss from industrial agriculture and monocultures
  • Restoring landscape areas to achieve habitat connectivity
  • Promoting biodiversity-friendly and climate-smart livelihoods for local communities – especially in forestry restoration
  • Preventing the damaging impacts of gold mining
  • Strengthening financial mechanisms for socio-ecological development and green infrastructure
  • Promoting nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration and other climate change and sustainable development goals
  • Helping reduce environmental crime and corruption
  • Introducing and supporting responsible eco-tourism

An initial $100 million investment of donor funding will be matched over 10 years by the government of Colombia. As donor funds are spent down, the government will implement sustainable finance mechanisms that increase and diversify sources of funding for protected area management. Thanks in part to the Trillion Trees partners’ efforts, the government has taken the step of allocating 5% of revenue from the country’s carbon tax to HECO. 

Why the Colombian Amazon?

Colombia is the most biodiverse country in the world, by hectare – with only 0.7% of the planet’s landmass, Colombia is home to an awe-inspiring 10% of all the Earth’s plant and animal species. 

Alongside its countless birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles, Colombia’s most cherished wildlife includes three species of rare river dolphin and the iconic, enigmatic jaguar. Colombia is a fundamental part of the ‘Jaguar Corridor’ that extends from Mexico all the way down the spine of Central America into the Amazon basin.

The Colombian Amazon also plays a crucial role in the massive hydrological system that helps stabilise the global climate. This is down to a combination of its size, its location between the equator, Atlantic Ocean and Andes mountains, plus its ecological structure. A unique combination of dense tropical forests, high mountains, open savannas, mangroves and beaches. Colombia’s vast forests cover an area larger than France. And they are a carbon megastore – holding the equivalent of 26 billion tons of CO2. Its forests and other natural habitats are vital for the country’s almost 50 million people too.

Colombia recently ended half a century of civil conflict. As large areas of the country become accessible again, conservation should become easier. Unfortunately the increased access has also brought a big rise in deforestation. In 2020, 110,000 hectares of Amazonian forest were destroyed along with another 60 000 ha of forests lost outside the Amazon, all contributing to an 8% increase in deforestation nationally compared to 2019. More than 40 football pitches-worth of forests are now being lost every day.

Colombia does have 17 million hectares of protected areas – including national parks and wildlife refuges. When properly managed, protected areas have been proven to decrease deforestation and damage, reduce biodiversity loss, buffer the effects of climate change, and maintain vital ecosystem functions (e.g. food, clean air and water, jobs). These protected areas also play a crucial role in addressing the roots of the conflict in Colombia, such as poverty and struggles over land ownership.  

But the country lacks the resources to ensure these areas are effectively managed against land grabbing, mining and illegal logging. To preserve Colombia’s remarkable biodiversity and valuable carbon stores, we urgently have to strengthen the country’s protection systems.

Partners and Contributors

Lead Partner: WWF

Wildlife Conservation Society