Riogrande basin (RGB) is located in the North-west region of Colombia with five municipalities within it. The average temperature of the area is 15°C with annual precipitation between 2,000 and 2,500 mm per year. Within the basin, there are ecosystems of strategic importance, and the local environmental authority protected them through the declaratory of and integrated management system called  “Distrito de Manejo Integrado de los Recursos Naturales Renovables, Sistemas de Páramos y Bosques Alto Andinos del Noroccidente Antioqueño” in Spanish with a total area of 21.603 Ha from which 6.043 corresponds to Páramo. Within the basin is the Riogrande II reservoir, which is a source of the water and energy for the 32% of the population of the Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley, the second largest populated center in the country. The basin is a source of livestock products for different areas of the country and has growing tourism potential.  


Despite its strategic importance, the ecosystems in the basin have considerably changed with the introduction of livestock and agriculture production. The patterns of settlement and forest loss show spatial interdependencies because of decisions made at the farm level (Ramírez et al., 2018). The strategic character of the basin together with the land use transformations makes it a suitable territory for studying socio-ecological risk to changes in ecosystem services provision.

Riogrande Basin


Source: Adapted from Macado et al., 2019

The total area of RGB is about 127,896.29 hectares (ha) (1,278.96 km2). From the total area of the basing 61.62%  is pasture mainly dedicated to dairy cattle farming, 28.99% is semi-natural areas (forest, paramos, forest plantations and shrubs in different successional stages) with productive and protective uses; 1,54% in agriculture. The remaining 7,85% is infrastructure, small mining processes, water surface and degraded areas (CORANTIOQUIA and UNAL, 2015).

Given the strategic importance of this area, since fifteen years ago different institutions have designed a series of plans, programs, and policies to restore and conserve strategic ecosystems for the region. For instance, government authorities and local actors of the Riogrande basin have led a regional planning instrument with the purpose to preserve and guarantee the supply of water. This planning instrument is called POMCA by its acronym in Spanish (Plan de Ordenamiento y Manejo de Cuencas hidrográficas). Other policy instruments such as Payment for ecosystem services schemes, protected areas and conservation initiatives of the community complement this plan.

The total population in RGB basin is approximately 68,000 inhabitants. The primary sources of income are dairy cattle farming, poultry farming, pork farming and in less proportion agricultural activities like potato crops, tamarillo, and coffee in the lower area of the basin. In the urban areas, the development of agro-industry services that support agriculture and livestock activities is the primary source of income. Although the beneficiaries of the services provided by the ecosystems in the basin are located not only within the basin but outside it, for this study, we only focus on the beneficiaries who live in RGB and whose income and way of life depend on the in-situ ES.

Conceptual modelling

Trajectories of Social-Ecological Systems in Latin American Watersheds

Research project ANR-CONACYT