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Orchids, victims of climate change in the Valley

Orchids, victims of climate change in the Valley

“Orchids at this time have three options. Or they change their life strategy and adapt, as has happened throughout evolution; they either migrate or they become extinct. They are the three paths that remain, ”says Guillermo Reina-Rodríguez, a botanical biologist at the Universidad del Valle.

Orchids, being the last link between terrestrial biota (a set of species of plants, animals and other organisms that occupy a given area) and the atmosphere, are the first to detect climatic changes, either in pressure or in temperature. temperature and are the most affected. This is why these plants become a powerful tool for planning changes for the future.

This is the main result of an investigation by the Universidad del Valle that analyzed the behavior of orchids (of the monocotyledonous family) and their importance in planning climate change in the future in Valle del Cauca and Colombia.

Pioneering research

This research was started by the botanical biologist and professor at the Universidad del Valle, Guillermo Reina-Rodríguez, five years ago, as a doctoral thesis project at the University of Barcelona.

Shortly after, the agronomist Jorge Rubiano and the geographer Fabio Castro joined forces, who began to work on the altitudinal displacement of orchids to mountainous areas, since these plants will be the 'thermometer' of climate change conditions in forest areas. dry, nationwide.

And it is that according to analyzes made in the country by the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, on the distribution map of the Tropical Dry Forest (BST), 65% of the lands that have been deforested and were dry forest , present desertification.

This means that these lands are so degraded that agricultural or livestock production is already unsustainable. The most worrying thing is that only 5% of what is left, that is, 0.4% of what there was, is present in the National System of Protected Areas (SINAP).

In Valle del Cauca, Reina indicates, “the dry forest has been totally deforested. What we have is sugar cane everywhere. It is a territory that during the last century has undergone a transformation. Now we only have 2% of what we had. That 2% is confined to territories bordering the rivers. We have discovered that in the places where the agricultural machinery has not reached, the first meters after the flat part, there are shelters or remnants of dry forest ”.

For Reina-Rodríguez, the drugs that are used today come from forests and one of those ecosystems is the dry forest. "The drug could be there to cure cancer and other diseases, that is why if these ecosystems are kept alive, the benefit for human beings will be considerably positive."

An investigation of this type had never been carried out in Colombia. It is the first time that professionals from science, geography and other areas have come together to carry out a study of this magnitude, which has been extended to departments such as Risaralda, Santander and Quindío.

Orchids repositioning

Another of the conclusions that the study has yielded is that the orchids will be displaced at the altitudinal level, that is, that their living conditions will improve if they develop between 1,200 and 1,400 meters of altitude.

In the course of the investigation, at least three local extinctions of the monocots were also evidenced, which were present when Alexander von Humboldt, in the company of the French naturalist Aimé Bonpland, passed through this territory, from Cartago to Popayán, in 1801.

On the other hand, thanks to the multiple field trips of these researchers, substantial data remained for the region.

Unlike the rest of Colombia, Valle del Cauca has a greater amount of information than other regions of the country, which will allow to have a regional mapping that will indicate where these plants are going to move in the years 2040, 70 and 100. This will be a vital tool to qualify the territory for the future and safeguard these plants.

The tropical dry forest of Valle del Cauca is home to 70 species of orchids (epiphytes or plants that grow on another plant, using it only as a support).

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