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Colombian paramos: a study of environmental borders and exploitation-conservation practices

Authors: Alejandra Uribe-Albornoz*, Universite de Montreal
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Latin America, Natural Resources
Keywords: Paramos, ecological boundaries, political ecology, GIS, resources, conservation and exploitation
Session Type: Guided Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The boundary-making process is inherently political. In the context of defining ecosystems, the production and definition of ecological boundaries have direct consequences on people’s livelihoods and their access to resources. Therefore, boundaries are established to define distribution, access, and control over ecosystems and the resources within them (Graybill 2014). The acts of delimitation prescribe what is permitted and what is to be prohibited within the newly defined ecological zones. In the case of Colombian paramos, these high-elevation neotropical ecosystems are characterized by their richness in water, minerals, and endemic species. Furthermore, these ecosystems are the main source of water for many rural communities and the major cities (Prieto-Rozo, 2017). The richness of natural resources makes the process of defining the paramos crafted balance between what gets protected and exploited. As part of the effort to protect (and exploit) these valuable ecosystems, in recent years Colombia has undergone a process of officially delimiting its extent. However, the process behind this delineation is very complex. It is shaped by an intricate combination of social, economic, political and environmental factors that intersect in uneven ways. In this poster, I explore how these definitions are shaped, contested and transformed within the context of the shifting power dynamics between conservation and extraction, by arguing that the process of boundary-making, its as much about defining the activities that will be authorized at the boundary’s edge of the paramos, as it is about the processes that will fostered and protected within it.

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