The following is the established format for referencing this article:Romero Puentes, R. B., and M. S. Rodríguez Susa. 2022. Old trees, sprouts, and seeds of the cloud forest: the voices of the campesinos. Ecology and Society 27(4):46.
The purpose of this study was to address the relationship between campesinos and nature. Using a case study in the Tropical Andes, we focused on the relationships between elders, adults, and children and the cloud forest. Tropical montane cloud forests (TMCFs) are among the most diverse and most threatened ecosystems worldwide. They offer a vast number of ecosystem services to society at local, regional, and global scales. Some of these ecosystem services and the relationships between the TMCF and campesinos were studied in the rural community of Sion in Colombiaâs Eastern Andes. Sionâs campesinos have built traditional ecological knowledge about TMCF and its benefits; however, this knowledge is being lost along with TMCF biodiversity. The campesinos, especially the elders, know that ecosystem services flow has changed over time and perceive reduced water and wood provision, as well as a reduction in the quantity of medicinal plants, flora, and fauna. The relationships between the forest and the people of Sion are not unidirectional; they are relations of coexistence and reciprocity, as reflected in the participantsâ narratives. To help maintain biodiversity, Sionâs campesinos plant native species close to their homes and voluntarily help to conserve TMCF areas. These practices reflect peopleâs identity and rootedness to the forest and to the village. Efforts toward TMCF conservation, such as restoration and designation of protected areas, should include the conservation of both biological and cultural diversity.
Tropical montane cloud forests (TMCFs) are among the most diverse and threatened ecosystems worldwide (Bubb et al. 2004); they support high levels of endemism and biodiversity (Morales and Armenteras 2013), and offer a vast number of ecosystem services (ES) to society at local, regional, and global scales. TMCFs are often covered by clouds, meaning that every aspect of their ecology is affected by mist and water condensation on the vegetation surfaces (Foster 2001), making them ecologically and hydrologically unique (Bruijnzeel and Hamilton 2000). TMCFs are among the most important “hot spots” in the world (Bruijnzeel et al. 2011), such as those in the Andean region, where the most diverse hot spot is located: the Tropical Andes region. Rural communities such as campesino and Indigenous communities live in areas covered by TMCFs, where they have built interdependent relationships. TMCFs host both biological and cultural diversity, or what is known as biocultural diversity.
Biocultural diversity refers to the interdependent network of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity in the web of life (Posey 1999, Maffi and Dilts 2014). Humans, as part of nature, adapted to life in particular ecosystems through coevolutionary processes over millennia, making cultural diversity and biological diversity interrelated and interdependent (Maffi and Dilts 2014). As a result of these processes, communities around the world acquired deep knowledge of local species, ecological relationships, and ecosystemic functions, or what constitutes traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), which has been passed down through generations via language and practical teachings, or lived experience (Maffi and Dilts 2014, Barreau et al. 2019).
The biocultural diversity of TMCFs in Colombia is reflected in all the biological diversity and endemism housed in its three mountain ranges as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (a mountain range on the Caribbean coast, isolated from the Andes) and the Serranía Macuira (in the middle of the desert in Guajira), and all the Indigenous and campesino communities that inhabit these regions. The country’s mountains host 39% of the mammals of the local fauna, 55% of its birds, 60% of its amphibians, and 55% of its reptiles (Cavelier et al. 2001). Of the country’s birds, 10%, most of which inhabit the Andean region, are endemic species. Amphibians are among the most diverse groups of fauna. Eighty-three percent of Colombia’s amphibians that inhabit areas above 1000 m elevation are endemic, and the proportion reaches 98% for those that inhabit areas above 2500 m elevation (Cavelier et al. 2001). Thus, most of the endemic species are located in the TMCF belt and in paramos. In terms of flora, the greatest diversity of epiphytes occurs in the Neotropics, particularly in TMCFs (Zotz 2016). TMCFs in Colombia host a great diversity of epiphytic vegetation. For example, of the 3285 known species of orchids, 2542 (77%) are found in the Andean region, and of the endemic species (1216), 78% have been recorded in the Andes (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible and Universidad Nacional de Colombia 2015). TMCFs also house 50% of moss diversity in Colombia (Armenteras et al. 2007). Although studies on invertebrates, fungi, and microbiomes are scarce, there is also a great variety of fungi in tropical forests (Peña-Venegas and Vasco-Palacios 2019), and the distribution ranges of some Boletaceae species and the genera Amanita, Lacaria, and Lactarius, found in Costa Rica and Colombia, are restricted to TMFCs (Del Olmo-Ruiz et al. 2017). In Colombia, most of the ectomycorrhizal fungi have been documented for forests dominated by Quercus humboldtii (Peña-Venegas and Vasco-Palacios 2019), the country’s only oak species, which occurs in the TMCF belt (Cavelier et al. 2001).
The broad-ranging biodiversity found in TMCFs is interlinked with the cultural diversity of all the different campesino communities in the three mountain ranges and Indigenous communities such as Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui, and Wiwa (in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta); Wayuu (in the Serranía Macuira); Awá and Cocunuco (in the Western Mountain Range); Embera (in the Western and Central Mountain Ranges); Guambiano (in the Central Mountain Range); Inga and Kamentsá (in the Andean-Amazon foothill, Sibundoy Valley); Nasa and Yanakona (in the Colombian Massif); Uwa and Yukpa (in the Eastern Mountain Range); and the Muisca communities (after being practically annihilated by the colonizers, some descendants constituted self-determined communities in Bogotá and Cundinamarca, Eastern Mountain Range), who inhabit these ecosystems (Ministerio de Cultura 2021a).
Some examples of the relations between the country’s communities and TMCFs are represented in the campesinos’ and Indigenous peoples’ ways of life and their special relationship with water and land. For most of these communities, nature is sacred and is treated with great respect. In the Andes, the campesinos are close to TMCFs and paramos, and some communities consider that humans and nature are one and the same. They recognize sacred and enchanted places such as lagoons and waterfalls, which were important sacred sites for the Muisca (Cundinamarca and Boyacá regions) and other campesino ancestors (Matapí Yucuna et al. 2013, Duarte Abadía and Osejo Varona 2015). They maintain close connections with plants and consider that having good relationships with nature, family, and the community is the basis for el buen vivir (good living; Duarte Abadía and Osejo Varona 2015). The livelihoods of the Embera Indigenous, “people from the river” and “people from the mountain” (Eyabida and Katio; Ministerio de Cultura 2021a) also depend on the rivers and TMCFs. The Embera believe that everything in nature has a jai (spirit) and shi mía (power), which becomes unbalanced when ecosystems are damaged, causing environmental disasters. The Jaibaná or shaman can talk to spirits and help to cure humans and territories of their illnesses using hallucinogenic plants such as Brugmansia species found in the mountains (Achito 1996, Domicó et al. 2002 as cited in Matapí Yucuna et al. 2013).
Four communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta share the Black Line, a spiritual conception of the territory that connects different sacred places (rivers, mountains, lagoons, rocks) where traditional priests (Mamas) perform rituals to maintain the balance between nature and human beings (Oros Vargas 2017). The territory is more than a mere physical place; it is also spiritual and it is where everything exists in its divine and material state. For those communities, the world cannot be conceived as fragmented; everything exists in reciprocal relationships. For example, the plants at the bottom of this mountain range are the guardians of those that grow higher up (Ministerio de Cultura 2021b). In the Sibundoy valley, the Inga and Kamentsá are known to use the sacred liana Yajé (Banisteriopsis caapi), the soul’s liana, and plants of the genus Brugmansia, which allow shamans to free their souls and communicate with gods and ancestors. These plants are also used as medicine and to make predictions (Schultes and Hofmann 2000, Ministerio de Cultura 2021a). A great range of hallucinogenic and medicinal plants are cultivated in the Sibundoy valley, making it an important center for the production of ethnobotanical knowledge (Schultes and Hofmann 2000, Davis 2009, Rodríguez-Echeverry 2010). Communities in the Sibundoy valley also grow traditional Andean food crops (Davis 2009).
Despite the importance of TMCFs in supporting biodiversity and for high-quality water supply (Sáenz et al. 2014), as well as their cultural diversity, they have not received enough attention. Deforestation in the Andean region is estimated to stand at 73–90% (Armenteras et al. 2007). The loss and fragmentation of TMCFs is related to forest conversion into lands for agriculture and livestock, but also for illegal crops as well as timber extraction (Cavelier and Etter 1995) and the mining industry (Correa Ayram et al. 2020). Most of the country’s critically endangered and endangered ecosystems are in the Andes and the Caribbean region, especially forests and wetlands (Etter et al. 2015).
The number of rural inhabitants is also decreasing as migration to urban centers continues as a consequence of state absence, which is reflected in bad road infrastructure, a lack of access to healthcare, unfavorable economic conditions, difficult access to land, and persisting internal armed conflict (Corte Constitucional de Colombia 2009, Muñoz-Rios et al. 2020). Besides the above, campesinos perceive better living conditions in the cities and access to formal education as a way to improve their quality of life, but away from the countryside. Indeed, education has been documented as one of the most critical drivers of rural migration (Muñoz-Rios et al. 2020). Youngsters are also influenced by city lifestyles and are thus motivated to adopt urban practices and to leave the countryside (Salazar Manrique and Molina 2017, Muñoz-Rios et al. 2020). This migration, common to most Latin American countries (Sliwa and Wiig 2016), is exacerbated in Colombia by internal armed conflict. Indeed, the country has one of the world’s largest documented populations of internally displaced people, reaching up to six million (Sliwa and Wiig 2016). Colombia’s rural population amounts to just 15.8% of its total population (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística 2021). Most of the Indigenous peoples in Colombia are at risk of physical and cultural extermination (Autoridad Nacional de Gobierno Indígena 2010), and 36 Indigenous communities are at high risk of extermination because of the internal armed conflict. They have been victims of serious violations of their individual and collective rights and of international humanitarian law (Corte Constitucional de Colombia 2009, Autoridad Nacional de Gobierno Indígena 2010). The dispossession of territory belonging to Indigenous communities is related to economic interests in the land for monocropping and the exploitation of natural resources (Corte Constitucional de Colombia 2009), which is also the case for other rural communities such as the campesino ones. Of the Indigenous communities that are at high risk, the Wiwa, Kankuamo, Arhuaco, Kogui, Wayuu, Embera, Awá, Nasa, Uwa, Yukpa, Guambiano, Yanacona, Inga, and Kamentsá (Corte Constitucional de Colombia 2009) are some of those that inhabit TMCFs. Displacement and migration of rural communities leads to a rupture of their cultural practices and relationships with nature. Changes in traditional food consumption and the use of traditional medicine have resulted in health problems and hunger in urban areas; even more dramatic is the fact that passing TEK on to new generations by parents and grandparents becomes almost impossible (Corte Constitucional de Colombia 2009).
Thus, in Colombia, besides the loss of biodiversity and ES in TMCFs, cultural diversity is also at risk of disappearing. As in other countries, biocultural diversity is eroded by biocultural homogenization, which involves the simultaneous loss of native biological and cultural diversity (Rozzi 2019), along with rural migration to cities and, consequently, the loss of regular contact with biological and cultural regional diversity (Rozzi 2013).
One way to reverse the loss of biocultural diversity is based on the recovery of practices, traditions, sense of place, identity, and rootedness, i.e., the recovery of historical collective memory (Cabrera Lozano et al. 2019) and TEK that have been fragmented or even destroyed with dispossession, which is not only material, but also affective and cultural (Arias and Caicedo 2017, Roche et al. 2019). To do so would entail the documentation and understanding of relationships between local communities and Indigenous peoples and their ecosystems. These relationships can be addressed through ES and biocultural approaches. The biocultural perspective complements the ES approach because it explores the intricate relationships between campesinos and TMCFs; i.e., people as part of nature, beyond the uses or services, as a bidirectional and reciprocal relationship. Our research focuses on understanding the relationships (TEK about uses, forest transformations, changes in ES, and feelings related to sense of place and rootedness) between Sion’s campesinos and the TMCF in which and with which they live.
Most campesinos in Latin America are smallholders who engage in agroecological farming, produce food, and manage the agroecosystems, conserving biodiversity, landscapes, and maintaining TEK and ES that benefit people in rural and urban areas (Salcedo and Guzmán 2014). These smallholders are important custodians of nature and play an important role in food provision and maintaining the genetic diversity of crops. However, despite producing 80% of the food consumed in a large part of the developing countries (International Fund for Agricultural Development 2013), they are not usually considered in decision-making processes regarding their environment and lands, and are consequently left out of policy-making (International Fund for Agricultural Development 2013, Apgar 2017).
In the case of children and teenagers in rural or urban areas, their lack of participation in decision-making instances is even more drastic in that they have traditionally been denied the possibility to do so. As pointed out by De la Jara Morales (2015), an adult-centered hegemony operates over minors, especially children, silencing them and making it difficult for them to turn their gaze on themselves, to describe themselves, to observe their heritage and their memory. In this respect, Sion’s children and teenagers were considered an important part of the project because their responses reflect intergenerational dialogue and knowledge building, as well as their own perspectives on the surrounding TMCF. Uncovering this double invisibility that affects all campesinos—adults, teenagers, and children alike—brings to light the need to work together to reconstruct the collective memory, in this case, about the TMCFs’ biocultural diversity. This process is a first step to the construction of other likely futures (Heras et al. 2016).
Here, we explore the relationships between Sion’s campesinos and the TMCF, how these relationships vary across generations, and the knowledge that has emerged as part of these relations. Specifically, our intentions were: (1) to document the ES that the TMCF provides to the rural community in Sion and the importance people attach to these services; (2) to examine different generations’ perceptions about the transformations that have taken place in the TMCF and changes in ES flow; and (3) to identify relationships between the TMCF and Sion’s inhabitants (adults, children, and teenagers), and the significance that people attach to the forest.
Our study is based on an emic perspective, as the first author’s ancestors are from Sion, and she has lived there intermittently since early childhood. The first author, like other people of campesino descent, has lost a significant part of her relationship with TMCF as a consequence of living most of her life in urban centers. However, she has received some TEK from her parents (campesinos), who decided not to migrate, not to change their traditions, nor to completely abandon their land. Our research thus renders possible a re-encounter with campesinos and with TMCFs as a step toward rebuilding the relationships between local communities and TMCFs in the Guavio region.
Sion is a remote village located in the municipality of Ubalá (Guavio, Colombia), a fair distance from any urban center (Fig. 1). Its TMCF territory hosts a vast diversity of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, as well as the campesinos community that persists, and Sion’s ecological beings. The village stretches over 2623.14 ha, of which 1569 ha are covered by TMCF and Andean aquatic ecosystems (wetlands, swamps, streams, and rivers). It is part of the TMCFs of the Eastern Mountain Range in the Colombian Andes and, given its many preserved areas, is particularly important in terms of biological diversity conservation and ecological connectivity of the forest and paramo areas beyond the Guavio region.
Like many other rural areas in Colombia, Sion too has been subject to a rural exodus, leading to the rural population’s loss of identity and ancestral knowledge, uprootedness, and the erosion of cultural values. Although this exodus is not documented, populations in municipalities that are further away from Bogotá are decreasing, as is the case for Ubalá and its villages (CORPOGUAVIO et al. 2019). Sion was severely affected by Colombia’s internal armed conflict. A large part of the population was forcibly displaced from the Guavio region between 2000 and 2004, making Ubalá one of the municipalities with the highest rates of forced displacement, reaching 918 cases documented until 2016 (CORPOGUAVIO et al. 2019). These events have influenced the number of inhabitants and the knowledge and customs inherited in the village. Sion is characterized by a dispersed rural population, with an estimated density of 1.3 inhabitants/km² and 47 inhabitants (CORPOGUAVIO et al. 2019).
Most of Sion’s campesinos have completed formal primary school education, and some have gone on to high school. Age in the village ranges between 5 and 80 years, and new generations have migrated to cities, making the > 60 year-old population the largest. Families are generally made up of a father, mother, and children. Some households are headed by single mothers, and several of the oldest community members live alone because their children have grown up and migrated to cities. Those who still have children in the village live with them and their grandchildren. The inhabitants’ economic activities on their smallholdings consist mainly of livestock and crops, which also serve for self-subsistence. The surrounding villages share similar biological and cultural characteristics, as well as similar trends and causes of migration.
Sion is located in a region with several springs that give rise to rivers that, in turn, feed two important hydropower reservoirs: Guavio (Guavio hydroelectric) and La Esmeralda (Chivor hydroelectric). A multinational company engaged in large-scale iron mining, and other minor mining of gemstones (emeralds), operate in other nearby villages in the municipality. A number of other mineral and oil exploitation projects are to be implemented in the region (mostly in Ubalá; CORPOGUAVIO et al. 2019). These activities would obviously exacerbate biocultural loss.
Data were gathered from each of the families in the village using qualitative research methods and different sociocultural ES assessment methods (Table 1). Before asking people to participate in the study, the first author worked with some members of the community that she knew to draw up a list of all the families in the village. We obtained their contact data and then visited each of the families at their home to tell them about the project and to ask whether they would be interested in participating in the activities. Finally, we agreed on a date to visit them again.
We emphasize that our study included the village’s entire population, with no exclusions: adults, children, and teenagers all participated in the activities. Although CORPOGUAVIO et al. (2019) estimated that the village had 47 inhabitants, this number was found to be fewer (30), so we worked with the information provided by the campesinos and with those who agreed to participate in the study.
A total of 27 interviews were done with adults residing in the village who agreed to participate. Of these participants, 10 were women and 17 were men. The total number of underage participants was 16. The research field team conducted the interviews and guided the activities with children and teenagers. Because the first author has a number of relatives in the village, interviews with them were conducted by the auxiliary researchers to avoid bias.
To discover and understand the relationships between rural inhabitants and the TMCF and its ES, we used a mixed approach, applying both qualitative and quantitative methods. Although, traditionally, the methods used have been quantitative, recent studies have shown that people value the importance of ES in many ways, and these perceptions are better captured by qualitative research (Arias-Arévalo et al. 2017, Tauro et al. 2018, Lau et al. 2019).
Semi-structured and structured interviews were conducted after having been tested in relation to their complexity and length (time expended in the interviews) with two people from the village who spend their time between Bogotá (capital of Colombia) and Sion. A preliminary explanation was provided to each of the families regarding the purpose of the project and the type of activities. Their willingness to participate in the project was ascertained via prior informed consent.
Face-to-face interviews were conducted with individuals in each household. Structured interviews were used to conduct exercises assessing the importance of ES and people’s perceptions of changes in ES flow. These activities were carried out individually and away from other family members to prevent bias (Lau et al. 2019).
Perception of the tropical montane cloud forest and identification of provisioning ecosystem services
Semi-structured interviews included questions related to sociodemographic information and open-ended questions about the inhabitants’ perceptions of the forest, their relationship with it, and the benefits received from it. These questions covered regulating, supporting, and cultural ES categories (Appendix 1), defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). ES were identified via specific questions and only for the provisioning category, which included questions about the kind of food provided by TMCF in the village; traditional crops; chemical uses such as dyes, soaps, and resins; and the provision of water, wood, and fiber. Given that these questions were open ended, the interviewees tended to go a bit further in their narrations. Beyond specific ES identification, they provided some explanations, feelings, or desires, which helped us to understand ES better from a perspective of relational values, relationships between people, and relationships between nature and people (Arias-Arevalo et al. 2017). These semi-structured interviews also revealed the heterogeneity among individuals, as well as their perceptions and priorities (Tauro et al. 2018). In the case of smallholdings, exploring this heterogeneity is important, given that they are usually excluded from decision-making processes despite their managment of large portions of the world’s biodiversity (Apgar 2017).
The first author had previous knowledge that some of the village’s campesinos collect wild plants and plant them on their properties, close to home. In this respect, we were interested in knowing which plants they bring home and why these plants are important to them. We asked the participants about the plants they collect and how they collect them, and then analyzed the narratives and stories about this practice and how it contributes to the conservation of TMCF and their biocultural values.
Interviews were recorded with the participants’ permission and then transcribed. When recording was not possible, notes were taken.
Assessment of the importance of ecosystem services from tropical montane cloud forest
The different ES in each of the categories were assessed. Participants individually rated each ES on a scale ranging from “not important” to “very important” (Appendix 1, Fig. A1.1). We used a qualitative scale instead of a quantitative one because during the testing exercise, the participants did not fully grasp the idea of assigning a numeric value to the importance of an ES. In contrast to other studies (Paudyal et al. 2015, Wilhelm et al. 2020), our aim was not to establish a value scale concerning the benefits derived from the forest (for example, to find out which aspects the rural population places the most or least value on), but rather, to find out more generally what people consider relevant for their own and others’ well-being. Thus, in contrast to ranking exercises, our participants could rate one or more ES as having the same level of importance (Lau et al. 2019).
To this end, each participant was introduced to the concept of ES and provided with an explanation of the categories through a short video recorded as part of the research. Our idea was to use didactic material to explain the concept of ES and its categories before rating them. During testing, we used an institutional video from the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and realized that, despite being made for pedagogical purposes, it was too complex for the participants. We therefore decided to make our own simpler video, which is suitable for adults and minors (available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztyBiNArdHk).
Perceived changes in ecosystem services flow
To estimate qualitatively the perceived change in the ES flow, we chose five ES in the provisioning, regulating, and supporting categories. Each participant was asked to assess whether the provision of those benefits had changed (increased or decreased) over time according to the period of residence of each inhabitant in the village (from 17 to 80 years). Of the 27 people interviewed, 20 agreed to assess changes in ES flow; these participants included men (11) and women (9) with an age range between 20 and 80 years. Each participant assessed the change based on the qualitative scale in Appendix 1 (Fig. A1.2). This exercise was complementary to open-ended questions in the semi-structured interview about changes perceived in TMCF and ES.
Children and teenagers
The perspectives of children and teenagers were assessed using playful tools. We asked the participating children and teenagers about different provisioning and cultural ES and their perception of TMCF using a competition game. The activity was tested with children from the Antonio Nariño School in Bogotá’s southern periurban area, a school in the city that is surrounded by forest (native and exotic species) and where students have daily contact with nature. Testing revealed that some of the playful tools were too time consuming, leading us to choose ones that could be completed in shorter time spans to prevent participants from getting tired or bored while answering the questions.
A group activity was proposed to explore the knowledge of provisioning and cultural ES in the village. Prior to the activity, children and teenagers were shown the same video used with adults to help them understand ES. The activity began by forming mixed groups of children and teenagers, then choosing a name of any living or ecological being from Sion’s TMCF and making a flag with that name on it. The sixteen participants were organized into five groups that they called Owls, Armadillos, Spectacled Bears, Mosses, and Clouds. Each group was then given a set of guessing games (riddles, mazes, spot-the-difference games, mathematical operations, and others focusing on the environment in which the children live) and proceeded with a questionnaire about specific provisioning and cultural ES, as well as a couple of questions about their perceptions of the forest (see Appendix 2). We used games to make the questionnaire more dynamic so that the children had to complete a game and answer a question intermittently until they finished. According to the level of complexity, some of the questions were taken from the interview used for the adults.
The narratives that explain the relationship with TMCF, the benefits received from it, and its importance, as well as changes perceived in TMCF and ES flow were classified into the values domains of instrumental, intrinsic, and relational (Arias-Arévalo et al. 2017, Tauro et al. 2018, Lau et al. 2019) and divided into similar subjects. As in Tauro et al. (2018), we ensured the campesinos’ subjectivity was respected.
The identification of provisioning ecosystem services was analyzed taking into account all the species of flora (wild and domesticated) and fauna from the TMCF mentioned by adults, children, and teenagers, and the narratives expressed by some people when describing ES. Data were organized and processed in Microsoft Excel, and then infographics were made to illustrate the results so that they could be shared with the campesinos. In the case of wild plants used for food and timber, we used word clouds (WordItOut https://worditout.com/), which make it possible to visualize, compare, and contrast data easily (Paudyal et al. 2015), as well as indicate the relative frequency of mention for each plant.
The answers to the question “Have you brought any plants from the forest to plant on your farm?” along with the results of the assessment of ES importance and changes perceived in ES flow were also illustrated with infographics (Piktochart https://piktochart.com/). Before building the infographics, data were organized and processed in Microsoft Excel.
Regarding the perceived change in ES flow such as water and wood supply, the availability of natural medicine, and flora and fauna diversity, the participants’ responses were grouped by time windows according to the length of time they have resided in the village. When analyzing the interviews and narratives, we noticed that the older population were more emphatic regarding changes perceived and thus talked about them more, whereas the younger generation, who had not lived in Sion as long, were not very sure about their answers for all the ES and provided less information in their answers. When organizing data, we noticed a trend whereby as the participants’ age increased so did their perception of reduced ES flow. We considered that the best way to illustrate people’s perceptions of change in ES was to group answers in time windows. Accordingly, four time windows were derived: 17–20 years, 21–40 years, 41–60 years, and 61–80 years.
The results are presented using the common names for flora and fauna, with scientific names given in parenthesis, and, in some cases, a taxonomic identification at family or genus level. Taxonomic identification requires the collaboration of experts (botanists and zoologists) and fieldwork with the community because the common names are often context specific. This situation is especially true for bromeliads and orchids, which are named by family, as people do not refer to them individually. Capital letters are used to name plants, animals, and spiritual places of importance to the community, by way of respect and recognition of their value. The scientific names of the flora and fauna are provided in Appendix 3, based on previous knowledge and secondary information from the region produced by the regional environmental agency CORPOGUAVIO.
Identifying provisioning ecosystem services
Sion’s campesinos (children, teenagers, and adults) all mentioned food provided by TMCF (wild animals, plants, and crops), fibers and wood, dyes, soaps, and resins that are used or were commonly used in households in the past. Water is a very well-known ES for this kind of forest and is always present in the answers.
People in the village use different nontimber forest products, and several plants (mainly fruit trees) are currently used for food purposes. All 27 interviewees mentioned that they consumed wild fruits, whereas animal protein was mentioned only by 48% (13) of them. Most of the adults who mentioned animal protein from the forest highlighted that it used to be consumed in the past, and that few people occasionally still do. This result was illustrated by the children’s responses, some of whom mentioned that the animal protein consumed included Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), Deers (Mazama rufina), Andean Guans (Penelope montagnii), and Agouti (Dinomys branickii, known as Tinajo), whereas another group manifested that they would not eat animals from the forest. The adults mentioned the same animals, adding others such as Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), Dwarf Coati (Nasuella olivacea), Pigeons (Patagioenas picazuro), Squirrels (Sciurus granatensis), and Porcupines (Coendou vestitus). They clarified that these animals were used as food in the past and are not anymore.
Mushrooms are not used as food. The community reported no knowledge of their use as food, and some inhabitants mentioned that they are poisonous. When asked whether they consume mushrooms from the forest, they provided descriptive answers such as:
No, not mushrooms, we don’t eat mushrooms; they say that these mushrooms are poisonous ... there are so many of them, but we are afraid to eat them... they say those red ones are poisonous, but we don’t eat them. (L., 49F)
...I know mushrooms, yes, but I don’t know which are poisonous and which are food. (A., 80M)
...None, because there are some that are poisonous, the red ones seem to be poisonous, I don’t eat them. (L., 21M)
These mushrooms include “red mushrooms” (Amanitas), associated with the exotic pines planted as fences. This information was also corroborated by some of the children’s responses, as a few of them mentioned, “mushrooms are poisonous and make them itch.”
The most commonly used food that comes directly from the forest is fruit, and the campesinos mentioned 16 species of fruit trees that exist there. Some of the other plants are used to prepare food in the community’s traditional cuisine: “Quiches (Bromeliaceae) to make envuelto”, and plants used as seasoning: Poleo (Satureja nubigenum), and to flavor drinks: Aguaquín and Granizo (Hedyosmum translucidum and H. bonplandianum). All the forest plants used in food are shown in a word cloud (Fig. 2). Children’s and teenagers’ responses to questions about food plants are consistent with those of adults, although they reported fewer plants (10 fruit trees).
Other foods consumed by the villagers are mainly subsistence crops originating in the Andean forests, which constitute part of the region’s agrobiodiversity. From the total adult population interviewed, 78% still grow some traditional crops. These crops include tubers such as Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza), Potato (Solanum tuberosum), Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), Rubas (Ullucus tuberosus), Ibias (Oxalis tuberosa), and Cubios (Tropaeolum tuberosum); vegetables such as Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo, native to South America), Bean (Phaseolus sp., native to Mesoamerica, domesticated in the Andes), Guasquilla (Sechium edule, native to Mesoamerica), Broad bean (Vicia faba), Poleo (Satureja nubigenum), Corn (Zea mays); and fruit trees, including Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum), Blackberry (Rubus sp.), Lulo (Solanum quitoense), Curuba (Passiflora adulterina), and Uchuva (Physalis peruviana). Most of the people with crops use agroecological practices in mixed gardens.
Wood and fiber
Despite the fact that most people mentioned the use of timber, only 12 people referred to specific plants, and of those, only 1 gave examples of exotic plants. The participants mentioned a total of 24 different species (common names) of timber trees, including Tunama (Wax Palm, Ceroxylon vogelianum) and Helecha (Tree Fern, Cyathea caracasana, Cyathea sp.) as sources of construction material. Of the trees reported, three are exotic (Pine, Eucalyptus, Acacia), and among the native species (Fig. 3), the most important are Mountain Pine (Retrophyllum rospigliosii), Sietecueros (Tibouchina lepidota), and Helecha (Cyathea caracasana, used for columns and doors). There were also reports of Amarillo (Ocotea calophylla, Nectandra reticulata), Sorquín Rojo (Clusia sp.), Sorquín Blanco (Clusia ducu), Arrayán (Myrcianthes rhopaloides), and Encenillo (Weinmannia tomentosa, W. rollotii), but in smaller numbers. The campesinos emphasized that some of them no longer exist in the forest and that they were more frequently used in the past (e.g., Mountain Pine, Cedar, Amarillo). This statement coincides with answers to the question about the plants least seen in the forest such as: Lianas, Mountain Pine (Retrophyllum rospigliosii), Cedar (Cedrela montana, Juglans neotropica), Amarillo (Ocotea calophylla, Nectandra reticulata), Oak (Quercus humboldtii), Trompeto (Bocconia frutescens), and Quinine (Cinchona pubescens).
Dyes, soaps, and resins: chemical uses
The adult community reported nine plants with chemical uses. Of these, three are used to make dyes: Pionía (Erythrina rubrinervia), Trompeto (Bocconia frutescens), and Tintarrón (Cestrum mutisii); and two are used to produce insecticide and fungicide: Nettle (Urera baccifera) and Barbasquillo (Persicaria punctata). Cucubo (Solanum inopinum) is used as soap, but more so in the past; Encenillo (Weinmannia tomentosa, W. rollotii) was also used in the past as a raw material for tanning leather. Aguaquín (Hedyosmum translucidum) and Gaque (Clusia multiflora) are used to make incense.
Children and teenagers mentioned tree resins used for “scents used for the home;” however, they did not mention any specific plants. This information could be related to the Aguaquín and Gaque mentioned by the adults.
Plants sown on the property and favorite plants: provisioning and cultural ecosystem services
Among the adult population interviewed, 85% mentioned native forest plants cultivated on the family’s properties. These plants corresponded to 27 species, including Orchids (Parásitas) and Bromeliads (Quiches), which group several species that were not individually named, so the figure may in fact be higher. Children and teenagers mentioned six plants that were included in plants mentioned by adults: Parásitas, Enredadera (Palhinhaea cernua), Helecha (Cyathea caracasana, Cyathea sp.), Sietecueros (Tibouchina lepidota), Wild Blackberry (Rubus sp.), and wildflowers. All these plants cultivated on the properties are grown from seeds, kernels, etc. collected in the wild. Bromeliads, Orchids, as well as some trees and shrubs were recovered from when they are swept away in roadside cleaning. In the case of epiphytes, some people take them directly from the trees but also pick them up from the forest floor when they fall from trees, especially during the rainy season.
Of the plants growing on the properties, several are ornamental and plants that campesinos like (favorite plants). Others provide food and timber, which is why they are planted near people’s houses. The 14 most commonly used plants and those that have been sown on the campesinos’ properties are summarized in an infographic (Fig. 4); the rest of species planted are listed in Appendix 3.
All interviewees stated that they receive water from the forest, and most of them agreed that water quality is good by referring to it with adjectives such as “very good, pure, crystalline, clean, very clean, and very pure”. Only three interviewees mentioned that sometimes the water comes with sediments. Water is used for human consumption, livestock, plant irrigation, and recreation, for instance, during the dry season, which coincides with school vacations, when many families tend to go to rivers and waterfalls to spend leisure time with friends and loved ones.
Children and teenagers also mentioned the importance of the forest for water provisioning and other ES (Table 2 and Appendix 4).
Importance of ecosystem services provided by tropical montane cloud forest
Regarding the importance that the adult community affords to the different ES, we found that the great majority of men and women consider regulating services as either “very important” or “important” (Fig. 5). For this category, only one person rated one service, natural disaster risk control, as “not important”. Supporting services were also rated highly (Fig. 6), revealing how important they are for the inhabitants. Indeed, only three people responded to two ES, nutrient cycle (two people) and biodiversity (one person), as “moderately important”. No one used the “slightly important” or “not important” ratings in this category.
There is greater variability in people’s assessment of provisioning and cultural ES (Figs. 7 and 8). Of the provisioning ES, freshwater supply was the only one qualified by all interviewees (100%) as “very important”. The study by Bhandari et al. (2016) of ES in Nepal’s cloud forests showed similar but less striking results, whereby the most highly rated ES was freshwater provision.
Perceived change in ecosystem services flow
The residents’ perceptions were subject to memory and their dependence on, or the relevance of, these ES for their lives. The responses therefore varied even within the same time window, especially among groups that have lived in the village the least; i.e., the 17–20 years and 21–40 years age groups. Most of the responses given by the population that has lived in the area between 41–60 and 61–80 years concentrated on the fact that the flow of these ES has decreased. The oldest and most experienced population in the area (61–80 years old) stated that ES such as water supply (100% of the population), wood (100% of the population), and medicines (80% of the population, 20% do not know) have decreased, as has the diversity of flora and fauna (80%).
Although the population that has lived in Sion for 41–60 years also considers that ES flow has decreased, the responses regarding the reduction of these ES was much more noticeable for the group that has lived in the village for 61–80 years, who, for the most part, consider that the flow decreased substantially (60% of the population considers that this happened for all ES, whereas 80% point out a decrease in water provision). Again, it is clear that water is a vital ES provided by these forests to rural communities like Sion. Accordingly, it is constantly and clearly present in both individual and collective memory. The different responses given by the lower and higher range windows are illustrated in infographics (Figs. 9 and 10). The other windows are shown in Appendix 5.
Perception: relationships between the community and tropical montane cloud forest
Sion’s campesinos have deep connections and relationships with their territory, their forests, and the ecological beings existing in the forest. These connections are present in the narratives, which also highlight the importance attributed to ES, as well as changes perceived in TMCF and in some ES flows.
Relational and intrinsic values appeared more frequently in narratives than instrumental values (Table 2; Appendix 4). Most of the community members shared something about their life and relationships with the forest, with the oldest population providing more stories and explanations about the topics assessed. This group tends to recreate the stories of their ancestors and narrate what they experienced (Rocha Vivas 2010). The most complete repository of a society’s collective memory often resides in, and is even entrusted to, the oldest existing generation (Aróstegui 2004).
For the campesinos, to live in Sion is very important, and life is hardly conceived of out of the village and without the forest (quotations 3, 5, and 8 in Table 2, and 1 in Appendix 4). Several people made comparisons between being in the city or living in other places and the benefits they enjoy in Sion. For example, people suffered when they moved to other places (quotation 4 in Table 2), or they missed the fauna because it was reduced or absent in their new places of residence (quotation 2 in Appendix 4). One participant mentioned having become ill in the city (quotation 21 in Table 2). When people expressed their thoughts, they did so mostly in a relational manner; water provision, clean air, tranquility, and biodiversity were mentioned as something special in the village (quotations 1, 2, 6, and 7 in Table 2). Some even referred to the forest as sacred, equating it with God (quotations 9 and 10 in Table 2) and as a “brother” or “intimate friend” with whom they have a reciprocal relationship of protection (quotation 11 in Table 2).
The flora and fauna (biodiversity) in the forest have intrinsic value and are treated with care and love by the local campesinos (quotations 12, 13, 16, 17, and 18 in Table 2, and 5 in Appendix 4). In some narratives, community and family were extended to other nonhuman beings (quotations 14, 15, and 19 in Table 2). One person referred to the river landscape as a human or animal body, metaphorically valuing streams as veins (quotation 32 in Table 2).
The narratives highlight regulating and supporting ES as well as water provision that were rated by the community mostly as “very important” and “important” (quotations 21–33 in Table 2, and 6–3 in Appendix 4). The community, including children and teenagers, recognizes the importance of those benefits and they also know about the forest’s role in water regulation. In some cases, they mentioned specific examples of the role of plants such as epiphytes in water regulation, and a group of children and teenagers even mentioned that the forest provides water through animal and plant interactions: “with the help of plants and animals.” Some of the quotations (32 and 33 in Table 2) exemplify how the benefits of forest conservation are received by other people beyond the village. Some inhabitants also mentioned soil formation, fertility, and erosion control (37–42 in Table 2, and 14 in Appendix 4) through relational values. Besides mentioning fertility and how soil formation occurs, some campesinos related soil fertility to agricultural practices (quotations 34–36 in Table 2) and described how it is important for them and their crops and domestic animals. One inhabitant expressed that soil fertility was a blessing from God.
The campesinos’ close relationship with wild plants reflects instrumental, intrinsic, and relational values, and is manifested in the practice of bringing wild plants, mostly valuable for their aesthetic appreciation, home (quotations 43–48 in Table 2). Only one person mentioned having brought plants home for material purposes (medicine). Wild species sown on the properties remind some people of their late relatives or friends (quotations 47 and 48 in Table 2), and it may be a way to keep loved ones alive once they have gone.
Changes perceived in terms of the forest and ES flow were evident in memories shared. People emphasized water quantity, forest coverage, fauna, and some emphasized flora (quotations 58–69 in Table 2, and 22–25 in Appendix 4). Most of the memories shared were about reduced benefits and forest coverage. Although fauna was perceived as less abundant, the presence of some fauna was said to be recent. For example, all those interviewed asserted that birds such as Vanellus chilensis were not native to the village but are now common; some said that a poisonous snake (Bothrops sp.) arrived to the village, and that Eagles, Condors, and Felines were reintroduced by the environmental agency (quotation 25 in Appendix 4).
During the interviews, some people expressed nostalgia about the past in relation to water (it used to be more abundant), uses of fibers, and social activities such as sowing and harvesting crops, hiking in the forest, and walking in the river or lagoons. Although the inhabitants were not asked specifically about cultural changes, the open-ended questions led them to talk about the topic, in particular, in terms of social-cohesion practices. All such practices (e.g., using fibers to make bags and baskets, which is now extinct in the village) were perceived as being less common now and as something that people miss. We asked no questions about the internal armed conflict and how it affected people and forest relationships, but people did mention it spontaneously (quotations 4, 18, 36, 71, and 72 in Table 2, and 25 in Appendix 4), and it is definitely something that seems to have caused deep negative effects on people’s well-being, on TMCFs, and on the relationships between them.
Identifying provisioning ecosystem services
The TMCF in Sion provides its people with water, food, medicines, and ornamental and raw materials such as wood and fibers. Water is always present in the campesino’s memory and constitutes a vital source from the forest for the community’s well-being. As is typical for TMCFs, water is available all the time; even during the dry season, people have water for human consumption, crops, and domestic animals. An important point is that the village does not have a water supply system, but all the inhabitants have access to freshwater, and most of them take it directly from streams in the forest. Children and teenagers also consider that the existence of the forest is important, and what comes to mind when they think about the forest in Sion are precisely all those irreplaceable benefits like water and oxygen, as manifested in the narratives.
The main sources of food in Sion are traditional crops such as domesticated wild flora from the Andean forests and TMCFs (Potatoes and other tubers as well as some fruit trees), highlighting the inhabitants’ dependence on the forest and the inherited products and knowledge from their ancestors (other campesinos and Indigenous communities that inhabited the territory in the past). These crops favor agrobiodiversity conservation as well as food sovereignty and resilience in rural, montane smallholdings (Ibarra et al. 2020).
Surprisingly, people do not consume mushrooms, which are abundant and diverse in these TMCFs, and, in fact, refer to them as being poisonous. Perhaps the fact that people do not consume mushrooms and are somewhat wary of them has to do with cultural homogenization, not only in terms of the education they receive in school (some people in the region mentioned that they were taught that mushrooms are poisonous), but also with the homogenization of the landscape (Rozzi 2013), induced by exotic trees such as Pine and Eucalyptus introduced in Colombia’s mountains. The red, poisonous mushroom mentioned by several inhabitants is Amanita muscaria, the mycorrhizal fungus associated with Pine trees. Thus, biocultural homogenization has transformed not only part of the landscape and native species, but also the perception, uses, and relationships (Rozzi 2013) between the forest and the campesinos. Mushrooms are seldom perceived by people everywhere, as they are part of the forgotten kingdom; however, in rural communities that inhabit TMCFs and other tropical forest, they are usually used as a source of food and medicine. Amanita muscaria is perhaps more widely perceived by people in the village as its fruiting body is easy to see (big and red) and because there are several Pines on the roadsides.
Despite the provision of ES, the TEK knowledge associated with them is eroding as practices such as eating animal protein; using wood, fibers, and medicine from native species; and even sowing traditional crops are less common. This trend is thought to be related to the transformation of TMCFs, environmental restrictions for using plant and animal species, an aging population, youngsters migrating to cities, the internal armed conflict, and the pressures of globalization.
The transformation of TMCFs has resulted in a reduced population of plant species; thus, it is mainly the village’s oldest people who have any knowledge about them. An example is Quinine (genus Cinchona), also known as the tree of life, as a medicinal plant and potential cure for malaria; the species was especially subject to extractivism by outsiders in the 18th and 19th centuries, leading to its practical extinction in Sion’s forest as in other TMCFs in Colombia and South America (Andean-Amazon countries; Sandoval and Echandía 1986, Zárate Botía 2001). This idea was expressed by some inhabitants during the interviews, for example:
...80 years ago, when the Quineros [people who extracted Quinine from the forests] came and ended with the Quinine, and that was for taking the medicine for the liver... like the Quinine’s bark is so medicinal. They ended with the Quinine and, maybe there is one little plant there... deep in the forest. They came from other nations, we do not where they came from, and they came to take our elements. I remember my father once stopped them [from taking the Quinine]. (A., 80M)
As a consequence of TMCF deforestation in the past, environmental restrictions for hunting and for timber and fiber extraction have also contributed to TEK erosion and to expanding use of exotic wood plants (Pine and Eucalyptus). These changes mean that children and teenagers either forgot or never received knowledge transmission about some native species and their uses.
TEK about dyes, soaps, and resins is also being lost. The adult population mentioned only nine species of plants from which they obtain dyes, soaps, biocides, and resins. The fact that so few species were mentioned, and that adults mentioned the majority of them, may be related to the fact that some of these traditionally made products have been replaced by products, mostly of synthetic origin, found on the market. For example, people rarely use natural dyes for baskets and bags made of natural fiber because these have mostly been replaced by plastic bags. Because new generations are not learning about using fibers and dyes, and people (women, in particular) who used to do so in the past have died, this knowledge has been lost, leading to an erosion of the relationship between people and nature and to the loss of identity.
Another factor that is eroding TEK in Sion is rural migration. The pressures of globalization (in particular, for young people, who are often forced to abandon the countryside to look for better opportunities in cities) along with the internal armed conflict have motivated many people to leave the village. Many of those who have left have not come back, and people who have stayed in the village are ageing. The relationship between the forest and campesinos has been deeply affected by the internal armed conflict. The children of people who were forced to leave have grown up in urban contexts that are distant physically, emotionally, and ethically from the TMCF and its biocultural values (Rozzi 2013). Those who remained in the village could not access the forest due to security concerns, and this too fragmented their relationship with it and TEK transmission. If people cannot have access to their forests and its variety of benefits, they are less likely to have or to assimilate knowledge about native species, soil, and water that is learned through experiences and oral tradition, usually accompanied by stories about ancestors and the forest (Maffi 1999, Barreau et al. 2016). Generally, people who return to a place they left at some point come back with other food preparation and consumption habits (Barreau et al. 2019). Others find it emotionally difficult to start again (nostalgia expressed by some and related to the violent episodes in which people lost their livelihoods and relationships with the land and people that have died) and to recover the well-being associated with having crops and domestic animals (quotation 36 in Table 2). Reduced crops alongside population ageing and young people migrating (quotation 35 in Table 2, and 15 and 16 in Appendix 4) contribute to the loss of agriculture and agrobiodiversity TEK.
Plants sown on the property and favorite plants: provisioning and cultural ecosystem services
The species of plants sown on the campesinos’ properties, along with their favorite plants, reflect the inhabitants’ affection for useful and aesthetically pleasing plants. It is interesting to see how even plants in danger of extinction are of great importance to the community. These include Orchids (Orchidaceae), Oak (Quercus humboldtii), Mountain Pine (Retrophyllum rospigliosii), Amarillo (Ocotea calophylla, Nectandra reticulata), Encenillo (Weinmannia tomentosa, W. rollotii), Wax Palm (Ceroxylon vogelianum), and Tree Ferns (Cyathea caracasana, Cyathea sp.). Although most of them have aesthetic value for most people, they also provide other services, including food, fuel, crafts, and as ornamentals. Such is the case for Tunama (Ceroxylon sp.) and the Parásitas (Orchidaceae). Both the Orchids and Wax Palms are icons of the national landscape that are loved by rural communities.
The people of Sion have made an effort to somehow preserve these species (probably without knowing their state of conservation in the country), in particular, the ones they use and love most, as is reflected in their planting and salvaging activities on their farms, near their homes. This habit of planting native species close to home somehow counters the habit of planting exotic species for fences and wood provision and fosters identity and knowledge about native species. If adults cannot go back to the forest (insecurity) and children and teenagers are not taken for walks in the woods, a way to be partially in touch with native biodiversity is by bringing it closer to home. Thus, planting native species could help them to learn about and strengthen their relationship with TMCF.
The little Oaks sown by an old man a long time ago are now a small Oak forest, which is also home to mycorrhizae and epiphytes (observed during fieldwork). The Wax Palms sown by the campesinos provide a habitat for Cacicus chrysonotus, a bird that makes its nest on the leaves of the Wax Palm (as narrated by the participants and observed during fieldwork and visits to the village). Native plant species provide birds and pollinators with food, and birds disperse seeds, helping to establish the flora. In this respect, the native plants sown on the properties by the campesinos provide habitats for other species (fauna, flora, fungi, and microorganisms).
Importance of ecosystem services provided by tropical montane cloud forest
The forest is very important for Sion’s campesinos, as are the benefits they obtain from it in terms of support and regulation ES, including soil formation and nutrient cycling for crop cultivation and biodiversity. In the narratives, these ES were described from a relational perspective; for example, soil formation and nutrient cycling are important to sustain the forest itself, but also to grow crops. As some indicated, a fertile soil maintains the beauty of the landscape, and this idea was associated with forest (different kinds of trees, the “many greens”) and crop coverage. Biodiversity, perceived mainly as flora and fauna, is of great importance for the community in the village and was also present in the narratives, usually from standpoints of intrinsic and relational values.
Of the regulation ES, one that is constantly present in the memory of the community is the air quality associated with well-being, which tends to be compared with the air they breathe when they go to the main city. Clean air from the forest is perceived as being good for people’s physical and mental health. In this respect, people mentioned that clean air puts them in a good mood.
TMCFs are undoubtedly ecosystems of great importance in terms of freshwater supply to their surrounding populations and for all those downstream who benefit from it. This importance was reflected in the campesinos’ ratings of ES associated with water provision (rated as “very important” by all the adults), water regulation and water purification (rated as “very important” by most participants). Sion’s community (adults, children, and teenagers) consider water to be an indispensable benefit and the “Monte” as something almost sacred (for example, expressions such as “Siempre Dios y el Monte”, God and the forest always), particularly for water provision. And this importance is perhaps because both the forest as a whole and the water are the representation of the life of those who live and lived in those mountains, including the legacy of the Indigenous communities who considered water to be sacred, a worldview that persist in many Andean communities (Delgado Rincón 2017). Water is vital for human and nonhuman beings and is normally valued as an important benefit obtained from ecosystems in rural communities (Arias-Arévalo et al. 2017, Tauro et al. 2018). In the Guavio region in which Sion is situated, projects such as the expansion of large-scale mining and dams can negatively affect water availability, water regulation (removal of forest), and water quality, increasing the pressure exerted on these threatened ecosystems, their rich biodiversity, and the rural communities’ livelihoods and deep relationships with water and TMCF.
For the other provisioning ES (food, wood and fiber, fuel, genetic resources, and medicinal plants; Fig. 7), 76% of the responses were grouped into the “very important” and “important” categories. The greatest variation in the rating scale was observed for ornamental resources, which, although used by campesinos, were rated as “slightly important” or “not important” by some people. The importance of ornamental plants is perceived more as being intrinsic and relational rather than instrumental, which is also why people sow aesthetically pleasing plants such as Tree Ferns, Wax Palms, and Orchids on their properties.
In the case of timber and fiber, men considered this service to be more important than women did. In rural communities, men are more actively involved in heavy labor tasks related to the use of wood, whereas women are more inclined to be involved in household tasks and gathering fruit, ornamental resources, and medicinal plants. These gender-differentiated roles and uses of forests have been reported in rural, Indigenous, and Afro communities in different parts of the world (Fortnam et al. 2019, Pearson et al. 2019). In the Andean Forests of Peru, for example, women more frequently collect firewood, fruits, medicinal plants, and roots, whereas men more often engage in wood gathering (Salas Laines 2011). This gender differentiation associated with the importance of some ES and TMCF relationships are based on differences in men and women’s economic activities, which are subject to gender inequality in rural areas, where rights of access to forests and its use and management are linked to power relations (Ravera et al. 2016). Despite being vital contributors to their communities, agriculture, food security, nutrition, and nature conservation, women are often discriminated against and marginalized (Food and Agriculture Organization and United Nations Women 2021). Whereas men obtain income from agricultural activities and elements from the forest that they can use (mainly timber extraction), women tend to be dedicated to the household, collecting fruits, firewood, and unpaid farming activities (Food and Agriculture Organization and United Nations Women 2021). In Sion, going to the forest to extract timber (in the past) was a task for the men, and the fact that women were not part of the activity may have made them not know or care about woody trees as much as men.
The cultural ES (Fig. 8) were mostly valued as “important” and “very important”. However, some responses are observed throughout the rest of the scale (“moderately important”, “slightly important”, and “not important”). Although participants equated the forest with the sacred in their responses, for the importance assessment rating, it seems not to represent a religious value, except for some people for whom it represents some form of spirituality. For spiritual and religious values, 60% of the answers fell within the “moderately important”, “slightly important”, and “not important” categories, possibly explained by the fact that the whole community is Catholic, and, in this context, believe that an external, human-like God created the forest. If we consider only the rating exercise, the result could conceal the real value, for some members, of spirituality and religiosity, which are perceived through the benefits provided by the forest. Hence, it is important to apply a qualitative approach to reveal meanings, feelings, and desires, from individual and collective voices, in a relational way. For example, in some responses to the open questions, several campesinos (both men and women) referred to nature as God’s work. Thus, if the forest with all its creatures was created by God, and God wanted to provide the campesinos with those “gifts”, then we expect living and ecological beings to be important, almost sacred, to them. This sacred quality is also present in food; for example, a good harvest is always God’s work. This concept is similar to that found in Papua New Guinea by Lau et al. (2019), where although people rated and ranked cultural ES as not being very important, they ascribed more importance to them in narratives as relational values. Thus, qualitative methods better capture intangible cultural values (Lau et al. 2019).
The forest, God, and religiosity are also associated with a sense of place, and expressions such as “always God and the forest”, “bound to the forest”, and “the forest is like a religion” are examples of this conception of the close relationship between campesinos and the forest. The importance of a sense of place and aesthetic value was also corroborated in the narratives for women and men of all ages. Most of the narratives expressed the importance of those ES in a relational manner. For example, they mention that the village offers them well-being through their experiences with water, clean air, and food (wild and crops); the scents of the forest; contemplating birds and plants; relaxation and inspiration near water sources; walking in the woods; and social activities such as recreation and sowing or harvesting with relatives and friends, something that is hard to find in urban centers and far away from loved ones. People who have died are often thought to be present in the village and through nature; for example, plants and water remind some people of their relatives. This strong sense of place and rootedness has motivated people to come back after years of forced displacement, and others (especially elders) never to leave, even if it means they are alone in the village.
In general, most ES are important to the community, especially those in the regulation and support categories, but also those that provide benefits that are difficult to replace, such as water, wood, and medicinal plants. It should be noted that, although the provision of wood and medicinal plants is mostly known by campesinos who have lived in the area the longest, they were positively valued by almost the entire group surveyed. Similar to other studies (Arias-Arévalo et al. 2017, Lau et al. 2019), we found that the valuation of ES in rural communities is generally relational.
Despite providing information about preferences, the rating exercise by itself does not reveal the reasons that motivate (or do not) people to look after nature. In some cases, i.e., the valuation of cultural ES, this idea can be confusing to grasp.
Perceived intergenerational change in ecosystem services flow
Taking into account the answers given in the different time windows, we consider the main changes in TMCF ES flow to be those perceived by the oldest population (61–80 years old), given that they have known the forest the longest. According to people who have lived in the village for > 40 years, local-scale forest transformations, along with global environmental changes, have reduced ES flow. This perception is also present in the narratives (open-ended questions) in which people mentioned that water, plant species, and fauna were more abundant in the past.
The fact that changes in ES flow in the village are more homogenously perceived by elders and people > 40 years old is related to several factors. One such factor is that they remember greater forest coverage and greater diversity of flora and fauna before deforestation. However, they also mention that as deforestation has ceased, some species of fauna that had disappeared have been sighted again. Those in this group also perceived changes in water provision, which could be related to forest transformation but also to climate change that affects TMCFs. For instance, the expected rise in cloud formation could affect biota (e.g., epiphytes that depend greatly on moisture), water cycles, and forest functioning (Still et al. 1999, Foster 2001). Besides the oldest people’s long-standing experience of the forest and its transformations, the internal armed conflict and environmental restrictions to some forest uses have meant that the younger generation and their children do not have access to the forest and to some of its benefits. If people cannot have experiences in the forest, this leads to TEK loss (Maffi 1999), which could also explain the different generations’ perceptions of some changes in biodiversity, natural medicines, and wood provision. For example, if campesinos no longer use woody species which are also less abundant, new generations will not receive knowledge about them, and they will not notice any changes if those species disappear. When people are forced to abandon the land, or when they live in the village but direct contact with forest is impeded, the cycle of generation-to-generation empirical study is broken. Without this direct interaction with ecosystems, the meaning of transmitting and acquiring knowledge is lost (Gray 1999).
As Rozzi (2013) points out, the loss of biodiversity is occurring simultaneously with cultural loss; this is also the case in Sion, which, despite its existing areas of native forest, faces biocultural homogenization. Among several of the examples provided by participants, there was a mother who talked about Tadpoles; when she was a child, there were many Tadpoles and Frogs, but now they are hard to come by. She mentions that the children needed to observe them for a homework task about metamorphosis, but that it was very difficult to find any. The village that was once a classroom and a laboratory (Gray 1999), where children walked and played in the forest and water sources, is changing, and the few students left (children and teenagers) are not receiving the knowledge and experiences their parents received. Global environmental change is affecting biodiversity globally and especially in vulnerable ecosystems like those in the Andes, where sensitive groups such as epiphytes and amphibians are at risk, along with ecological knowledge (Foster 2001). The extinction of the experience, or the loss of direct contact and interaction with the surrounding environment (Maffi 1999), i.e., “the lack of face-to-face encounters with local biodiversity” (Soga et al. 2016 as cited in Celis-Diez et al. 2017), which generally occurs in urban areas is now taking place in rural sites with native ecosystems coverage.
Just as forests need large, old trees for sprouts and seeds to survive and prosper (Beiler et al. 2010) and thus to support the life of the different communities of living beings, rural communities need the permanence of coexisting generations and the relationships between them and between them and nature to prosper, to adapt to global environmental change, and to become social-ecologically resilient, which is context specific and emerges from the web of relationships (Ravera et al. 2016). It is therefore crucial for TEK to be passed down from generation to generation and for women not to be excluded from ecosystem benefits and TEK acquisition. The rural community in Sion is similar to the plant community, whereby old trees, sprouts, and seeds are represented by elders, adults, and children, respectively. Children are the seeds of TEK and they must be provided with the right conditions in which to germinate to preserve TEK and the TMCF.
Finally, open-ended questions complemented both the importance rating and the ES flow change exercises. Clearly, narratives provide detailed information and stretch further than the question itself. Cultural changes, which were not initially addressed in the exercises but that participants talked about anyway, show that campesinos and TMCF are linked in multiples ways. Indeed, changes in TMCF and its benefits affect the rural communities’ lifestyles in ways that are not always easy to identify (the fragmentation of social cohesion, identity, and rootedness), but which are important and give meaning to life in the village.
Perception: relationships between people and tropical montane cloud forest
Through their narratives and answers to questions in the structured interviews, the campesinos showed us that their relationship with the forest is not unidirectional and that the existence of both is tightly bound. Indeed, as the forest has been extensively transformed, as manifested by the oldest participants, several campesinos have allowed the native forest to grow over portions of their lands. They do this voluntarily, as these areas are neither protected nor are there any economic incentives to protect them. This act also reflects the importance of Sion’s TMCF for the villagers. For some people, plants and animals are considered as part of the family or as friends and are treated very similarly to human beings; this relationship with biodiversity reflects empathy and care for other living beings and extends the community and well-being beyond humans. Taking care of wild plants recovered from roadsides or those in paddocks that would otherwise not survive, or the story about the Toucan chick (quotation 5 in Appendix 4), are examples of this idea.
Sion’s villagers know how important the forest is for them but also for other humans at local, regional, and even global scales. Some people mentioned the importance of the forest to supply water to reservoirs for energy production. Others expressed that the forest is not only important for them but for humanity in general, and that is why they protect it. The close relationship between people and the forest is what has allowed them to identify some of the changes that have occurred in the village in terms of biodiversity, water quantity, and cultural shifts. As mentioned by Posey (1999:16), local and Indigenous communities are the peoples of the planet that still know “when birds nest, fish migrate, ants swarm, tadpoles develop legs, soils erode and rare plants seed.” In this respect, the people-nature relationship is being eroded in this village and in most villages in the region, country, and in Latin America as a whole (Celis-Diez et al. 2017), which deserves urgent attention. This trend in biocultural homogenization could end in the disappearance of TMCFs that are already at great risk and of the TEK of the peoples who inhabit them. Territories that are home to very small populations because of migration and forced displacement are “left open to accelerated processes of land-use changes, including large-scale mining and expansion of monocultures” (Rozzi 2013:16). This scenario is indeed the case for Guavio, where large-scale mining occupies villages close to Sion and where other oil and mining projects have been planned (CORPOGUAVIO et al. 2019). This scenario is also occurring nationally within the territories of Indigenous peoples, to whom the National Constitutional High Court has drawn attention.
We explored the relationship between campesinos and TMCF in Sion. The community is evidently still highly dependent on the forest and its ES; the majority of ES, and mainly regulation and support ES, were valued as “important” and “very important”. Sion’s rural community has built TEK about the TMCF that surrounds it, and the population (especially the elders) has perceived forest transformations and ES flow reductions.
Sion’s inhabitants have deep-running relationships with the TMCF, and living in the village and in harmony with the forest gives meaning to their existence. The forest and its living and ecological beings are considered important for people’s lives, to the extent that some campesinos consider plants and animals to be part of the community (friends, relatives) and demonstrate it in the way in which they look after them.
Although the village has native forest coverage, it is experiencing biocultural homogenization. Global pressures, state abandonment, and the country’s internal armed conflict fragment the relationships between rural communities and their ecosystems, as is the case in Sion. Urgent attention is needed if we are to stop the loss of biological and cultural diversity.
Finally, with regard to the research approach, qualitative research proved to be a powerful tool in assessing the valuation of ES because it provides specific and detailed information from the individual and collective memory and takes into account relational values and information that is missed when using only quantitative methods. The biocultural perspective complements the ES framework, goes beyond ES identification or importance valuation, and details the intricate relationships between nature and people and how they are eroding. It provides a broader frame to the analysis and management of social-ecological systems taking into account both biological and cultural diversity. We recommend this methodology, along with the emic perspective (when possible), in the study of people’s relationships with nature.
 Dispossession is the process by which, through the exercise of violence, individuals and communities are permanently deprived of their right to the enjoyment of material and immaterial goods. It goes beyond the usurpation of land and involves the deprivation, individually and collectively, of social and community spaces, habitat, politics, culture, and nature. It is also the appropriation, by various means, of natural resources and territories as a strategy potentially associated with political and economic transformations, and ultimately, with development. Dispossession breaks the links between communities and nature and triggers the erosion of TEK (Área de memoria histórica - Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación and Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales - Universidad Nacional de Colombia 2009).
 It was not customary to consume this animal, but its meat was used as food when it was hunted for causing crop damage.
 A corn-based dough, wrapped in bromeliad leaves, traditionally served with coffee at breakfast.
 Colombia’s Andean region is home to 77% of the orchid species registered for the country and contains 76% of the species registered as endangered. Cundinamarca has the second largest number of orchid species (825) after Antioquia (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible and Universidad Nacional de Colombia 2015). With the degree of TMCF destruction in Colombia, and without yet having data on the species registered for Sion, it is likely that many orchid species are under threat. Of the seven species of Ceroxylon, five are endangered (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible 2017).
RESPONSES TO THIS ARTICLE
Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a response, follow this link. To read responses already accepted, follow this link.
Raquel Romero Puentes developed the research proposal, the design and methods, data analysis, results interpretation, and the infographics. Manuel RodrÃguez Susa reviewed the research proposal and methods, contributed to data collection, and also reviewed, commented on, and edited the document.
Thanks to the rural community of Sion for its hospitality and for sharing part of its knowledge with us. We are grateful to the assistant researchers for their valuable help in field work and to los Andes University for financial support. All authors acknowledge financial provided by the Vice Presidency for Research & Creation publication fund at the Universidad de los Andes. We are also grateful to the editors and anonymous reviewers for discussions and helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Raquel Romero Puentes expresses special thanks to the campesinos and to los Andes University because this research allowed her to start the recovery of the biocultural memory inherited from her ancestors.
The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. None of the data are publicly available because they contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants.
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Table 1. Summary of the research methods applied.
|Identification of provisioning ecosystem services (ES) and perceptions of the tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF)||Adult population||Male: 17
|Semi-structured face-to-face interviews (open-ended questions)||• Open-ended questions about the campesinos’ perceptions of the forest, their relationship with it, and benefits received from it; questions covered regulating, supporting, and cultural ES
• Specific questions were asked to identify provisioning ES
|Identification of provisioning ES and perceptions of the TMCF||Children and teenagers||Total: 16||Questionnaire and playful tools in mixed groups of children and adolescents||• Children and teenagers formed five groups, which were named with names of the forest’s ecological beings (Owls, Armadillos, Spectacled Bears, Mosses, and Clouds)
• Questions covered cultural and provisioning ES, as well as perceptions of the forest; several questions, according to their level of complexity, were taken from the interview applied to the adults
|Assessment of the importance of ES from the TMCF||Adult population||Male: 17
|Qualitative assessment exercise to rate importance of ES in a five-point scale ranging from “not important” to “very important”||• This assessment was conducted individually with each participant; qualitative scale is shown in Appendix 1 (Fig. A1.1)|
|Perception of changes in ES flow||Adult population||Male: 11
|Qualitative assessment exercise to estimate the perceived change (increase or decrease) in ES flow||• This assessment was conducted individually with each participant; only 20 participants agreed to assess changes in ES flow; qualitative scale is shown in Appendix 1 (Fig. A1.2)
• For data analysis, answers were grouped by time windows, according to the length of time the campesinos had resided in the village (17–20, 21–40, 41–60, and 61–80 years)
Table 2. Narratives used by campesinos to describe tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF), ecosystem services (ES), and their relationships. Quotations are followed by initials, age, gender, and, in the case of children and teenagers, their group’s name. These narratives demonstrate the concerns, feelings, desires, and memories expressed by Sion’s community.
|Number||Perceptions about importance and changes in TMCF and its ES||Value domain||Comments and context|
|Context: sense of place, rootedness to the forest and to Sion|
|1.||“On the boundaries of the place I was born, a mountain range crossed ...I breathed the pure air, and with the sunrise the little birds were listened.” (A., 62F)||Intrinsic, relational||She expresses the beauty of having been born in the village|
|2.||“...the wood [referring to the trees] is seen, the mist is seen. When the water is produced it is seen [referring to the mist in the mountains, condensing on the vegetation], when the Forest produces it.” (N., 65M)||Intrinsic, relational||Water is one of the most valuable benefits from the TMCF, which is present in people’s memory also as aesthetic appreciation of an ecological process|
|3.||“In the capital city I could not stay for long, on the other hand, here...despite I be hungry...there in the capital, for example, there are not many of the things that we have here.” (A.J., 65M)||Intrinsic, instrumental, relational||Life has meaning in the village, and well-being is extended to every aspect (material, emotional, and social); “many things” refers to, for example, food, water, Nature, relatives, and community|
|4.||“This [the Forest, landscape, environment] one does not see in all the places that one has been...and one suffers. For instance, when we were displaced from here, I suffered a lot, too much because I missed a lot the water, the air...like the oxygen.” (L., 49F)||Intrinsic, relational||In the village, there is no pollution, and the benefits of Nature are always present; compared to other places, Sion offers major benefits to her|
|5.||“The Forest is our life; if it weren’t for it, we had no water. Such as beautiful that it is when one goes and lies down under the shadows...So beautiful to take a nap there.” (O., 34M)||Intrinsic, instrumental, relational||Perceived material and non-material benefits; the aesthetic experience|
|6.||“Sounds of animals from the Forest transmit us peace and calm” (Armadillos group)||Relational||Benefits for mental health; experiencing Nature, in this case, animal sounds, makes children and teenagers feel at ease|
|7.||“Peace, calm, it is a site where we can breathe fresh air and walk away from our problems.” (Owls group)||Relational||Benefits for physical and mental health|
|8.||“If it weren’t for the Forest, one would not have water, no medicinal plants, one would be nothing! Because the Forest helps one to eat, to think, to see, to breath.” (L., 21M)||Instrumental, relational||Forest provides him with water, oxygen, food, medicines, and also inspiration to think|
|9.||“If we had no Forest, we could not survive, how? God and the Forest, for the water, for the air, for everything, always God and the Forest.” (L.M., 57M)||Instrumental, relational||Human life is not possible without the Forest and God; Forest is then as sacred as God|
|10.||“The Forest is like.... like if it was like a religion, one is bound to it, like a religion.” (L.M., 57M)||Relational||Religious values; a close relationship with the Forest as with divinity|
|Context: aesthetic values and love for other living and ecological beings|
|11.||“I consider the Forest like a brother and like an intimate friend of us; the relationship that we have with the forest: to protect us.” (A., 80M)||Relational||The Forest as a whole is part of the extended community; friends and loved ones are not only other human beings, but all the living and ecological beings; reciprocal relationships of care|
|12.||“I like a lot the birds. I love the Quen quenes.” (A., 62F)||Intrinsic||Loving birds by their existence|
|13.||“I like a lot the little birds, the little birds are very important. If it weren’t for the little birds, what a sadness! The little birds are the ones that help to give life to Nature, and the trees! (L., 21M)||Intrinsic, relational||The existence of birds is very important; happiness as the opposite of sadness, as a whole, not the trees alone, but with the birds; birds on trees put people in a good mood|
|14.||“The Arrendajos [Cacicus crhysonotus], they come here to make their nets in the Tunamas’ [Ceroxylon vogelianum] leaves. The Arrendajo and the Toche [Icterus chrysater], they are from the Turpials family, they are cousins, ha ha ha! As here all of us are cousins and relatives.” (A., 80M)||Relational||Through observation of Nature, he knows about some ecological relationships between birds and flora; the campesino community is a family, but birds too are part of this family|
|15.||“The Coguai [Trogon collaris] is a very beautiful animal. It has like seven colors! And the Toucan [Andigena nigrirostris] and little Toucan [Aulacorhynchus prasinus]. The Toucan is big and elegant, and the Emerald, the little Toucan. The Real Woodpecker is very beautiful. Those are the ones that I like by their colors and their singing, because animals also have voice, same than us, a way to communicate.” (A., 80M)||Intrinsic, relational||Aesthetic appreciation and the extended community; he puts animals at the same level as human beings|
|16.||“I remember a lot when the Sietecueros bloom. It is very beautiful to see the landscape when they bloom. It looks like an altar...” (N., 65M)||Intrinsic, relational||Aesthetic appreciation and comparison with sacredness|
|17.||“I like a lot the Parásitas, because they bloom very beautiful, and when they bloom there is an aroma very, very good. It is almost like a perfume, yes, they expel a fragrance very, very beautiful.” (N., 65M)||Relational||Aesthetic appreciation of flora (orchids)|
|18.||“When we were younger, we picked flowers up [referring to orchid flowers], we gave them to our friends...because they liked that aroma, because they smelled...smelled like pure chocolate! We gave them with love...We miss them [orchids], there aren’t. It’s over. When there was la violencia, they burnt here, and then, many little plants of those were burnt in the Forest, a lot of Forest was burnt, then just some of them one can see over there. But when there were, it was like a garden! You could see like if it was a garden! (O., 34M)||Intrinsic, relational||Aesthetic appreciation linked to social cohesion between men and women through presents of Nature; nostalgia related to the consequences of violence for Nature and cultural practices|
|19.||“...One loves a lot the plants, and they also love one, they only need to speak, nothing else. They have life: They are born, they grow, they reproduce, and they die, same that human beings! but they lack of words. If they could speak, they would say: Do not kill me! Do not cut off me! Do not burn me!” (A., 80M)||Intrinsic, relational||The community extends to include other living beings from the Forest; for him, plants are the same as humans; plants and humans give love to each other in reciprocal relationships; plants have a right to exist|
|20.||“The most beautiful memory for me from the Forest...it was precisely the waters. When we went to the streams and rivers, to the waterfalls! There, in Chorroblanco [a waterfall], under the shadow of the Forest, we liked a lot...to take a bath and playing in the Forest.” (O., 34M)||Intrinsic, relational||Because there are multiple sources of water, they are called the waters (lagoons, waterfalls, streams, rivers, and the mist); having a sensorial experience with water is not only the water itself, but the whole aesthetic experience with the Forest (shadow, sounds, etc.)|
|Context: water regulation and provision, air purification|
|21.||“...Off course the pure air! the pure air! the freshness! I think I feel good, but when I go to the city, the noise, I get sick with all those noises, I get headache, I feel pain in my ears, but here, the fresh air brings me good mood.” (L.T., 65F)||Relational||She values the pure air and the tranquility that she gets from Nature in the village. Benefits for physical and emotional health.|
|22.||“When one wakes up, one feels that fresh air that comes from the Forest.” (L.A., 42F)||Relational||The Forest is present in her life throughout the day in her breathing and the sensation of freshness|
|23.||“From the Forest we receive the pure air, it is pure air, we breathe a very pure air and the oxygen that the Earth produces, and we breathe the biologic layer of compost that there is in it.” (N., 65M)||Relational||He breaths the oxygen and experiences contact with pure air; also, as air is inhaled, and Nature is in the air, then Nature is inhaled through it|
|24.||“Anyone of us knows and says that from the Forest come the aromas for one, everything...and that is important.” (A.J., 65M)||Relational||Aromas from the Forest are one of those incommensurable benefits that some people perceive|
|25.||“The Forest is the one that produces the oxygen to breath” (Spectacled Bear group)||Relational||Similarly to water, oxygen is necessary for living, and the Forest produces it through its vegetation|
|26.||“Without water nobody can live” (Mosses group)||Relational||Water is essential for life|
|27.||“From my own Forest water comes, water for home, and, it is pure! I drink that water without boiling it. You put it in a glass and...it seems like a crystal!” (O., 34M)||Instrumental, relational||The Forest provides him with water, but purified water; here, he refers to the benefits of water provisioning and regulating|
|28.||“...It is there, where the water is created, in the trees, and the Forest makes like a retention of rain water, and then it storages it, and then it gives it to us, little by little” (J.A., 24M)||Relational||Knowledge and observation of Nature’s water regulation processes|
|29.||“Plants are essential to maintain water” (Owls group)||Relational||Plants play a key role in water regulation|
|30.||“The Mosses, all those plants...we conserve them. Mosses, Quiches [bromeliads], they store water in wet season and, in dry season... [it is delivered]. Parásitas [orchids] also storage water, but they...more in the roots.” (A., 80M)||Relational||Knowledge and observation of Nature’s water regulation processes; he specifically talks about the importance of epiphytic vegetation and how the Forest operates during wet and dry seasons|
|31.||“The Forest give us water, with help of Mosses and animals that inhabit in it.” (Clouds group)||Instrumental, relational||The importance of the Forest for water provisioning; children and teenagers recognize the role of Mosses in water regulation; they also mentioned animals as part of the Forest community; animals help to sustain plants, and plants like the epiphytes are involved in the water cycle|
|32.||“...and down here, those are de veins of the river! And it rises up ...this river that discharges into the Black River, and that is the water that goes to Mámbita [where a hydroelectric central is located], that water goes to Mámbita, of light.” (L.M., 57M)||Relational||Knowledge of the village and its ecological beings; like humans, Nature too has veins; the streams are the veins of major rivers, the Black River; these veins give other humans energy (light)|
|33.||“Like I say, the water that I say again eh, if it weren’t for these mountains... that water goes there, for that reservoir! As I say they took it for another nation...what would have they done? Maybe it couldn’t have energy today, or I don’t know” (L.T., 65F)||Relational||In her complaint about the water that is taken from the community’s Forests, she emphasizes the campesinos recognition as those who look after the Forests, which are needed for other communities, to produce energy|
|Context: soil fertility, erosion control, and agrobiodiversity|
|34.||“...it gives you Beans around the Corn, Broad Beans, Pumpkin...In this piece of land, here where I live is very fertile! What a plant that is sown don’t progress? Blessed and praised be God! Arracacha, Potato, Beans, Broad Beans, Guatila, Onions, vegetables from ones and others. Blessed and praised be God!” (L.T., 65F)||Instrumental, relational||Everything that is sown grows; soil fertility is appreciated, as it allows campesinos to grow traditional crops; food represents life; fertility and prosperity of crops are considered as God’s gifts|
|35.||“...a lot of was sown to eat. In that time [in the past, when he was younger], there were up to five or six horses to bring the food, to bring Potato, Corn, Broad Bean, but, now what? Nothing! In that time, we were many people, those who worked. Everything is over!” (A.J., 65M)||Instrumental, relational||Agricultural activities, especially those associated with growing traditional crops, are important for campesinos; besides provisioning food, sowing and harvesting foster social cohesion as people spend time together and share part of the harvest with others; now, there are fewer people in the village and an aging population, along with a prevailing sense of nostalgia|
|36.||“At that time [in the past, when he was younger] I used to sell eggs, hens, I had a pig. As it is said yo iba palo arriba [a metaphor that means I was growing like a tree]. It was when la violencia... I sold them, like four or five million [Colombian pesos] ...and I spent everything there [in another place, when he was forcibly displaced], my little hen, my little pig, everything...” (A.J., 65M)||Instrumental, relational||In the past, social-ecological conditions (soil fertility, water availability, land tenure) allowed him to prosper; the metaphor used could be understood as the village was fertile, like soil fertility allows a tree to grow “yo iba palo arriba”; it is as if his life was a happy one with crops and animals, but the internal armed conflict fractured this relationship, forcing him to move away from his territory|
|37.||“Because big tree has a long root, strong roots, then, it helps to sustain the soil.” (A., 62F)||Relational||Big trees are considered valuable for several benefits, one of which is erosion control|
|38.||“For example, the organic layer, the same tree almost brings it, because a leaf that is falling, that leaf is decomposing and, it makes the vegetal layer that serves as compost for the same tree.” (A., 62F)||Relational||Knowledge about organic matter and nutrient cycling|
|39.||“Some are born and others throw...and like that...it sustains, from the same plants it is sustaining the Forest...the compost.” (L.H., 18M)||Relational||Life cycles, to be born and to die, are necessary to the Forest to sustain itself|
|40.||“Where one doesn’t clean, it is so fast that everything grows. It has good vegetation; the little trees can grow well.” (G., 35M)||Relational||Soil fertility is associated not only with crops, but also with growing wild plants|
|41.||“Look over there, there is not just one color, look how many greens there are!” (M., 74M)||Relational||The variety of greens is related to the diversity of plants and soil fertility that enables their growth|
|42.||“Here, the more one had, more important, to see everything beautiful...If this were sterile, it wouldn’t be the same, less good mood one would have. There are lands where one sees like...to grow plants and everything! like to grow Potato!” (A.J., 65M)||Instrumental, relational||Soil fertility is also related to emotional well-being; it allows people to enjoy the beauty of the landscape; when he observes the vigorous plants or some of the characteristics of the land, based on his experience, he knows about places where sowing crops would be fruitful|
|Context: wild plants sowed or planted on the properties|
|43.||“Gaque, Parásitas [orchids] from the Forest trees. I bring the Parásitas and put them on the little trees. To the Parásitas... one gives them Mosses and they continue to growing there, with the tree’s energy.” (A., 62F)||Intrinsic, relational||She values the existence of orchids; they are important for her, so she brings them home and plants them on nearby trees; she knows what they need to grow from observing them in the wild|
|44.||“Like here the Forest is close, then if one needs a medicine, then one goes and bring leaves, sometimes I bring the little plants and I grow them here.” (L., 49F)||Instrumental||The Forest provides her with medicines; wild plants sown close to home are also for material purposes (food, medicine, raw materials)|
|45.||“When they clean the roads, one brings those Parásitas along the roadsides. One recovers them and sows them at home, because they cut them off.” (D., 57M)||Intrinsic, relational||Reciprocal relationships; like him, some people care about plants that can die when they are swept away during road cleaning; the Orchids continue to live on other native plants at home|
|46.||“The Arrayanes, they were born here, and we allowed them to grow here. I have brought Tunamas, Sietecueros!” (L., 21M)||Intrinsic, relational||Young people also bring seeds or sprouts of wild plants to sow at home|
|47.||“These little Tunamas that I have here...This one! This one my little old man [referring to her deceased husband] left it sown. It was just sown when he died. Those other ones, I sowed them! I brought them from Chorroblanco; we had a paddock there, and there were Tunamas, and they had fruits, we brought the fruits and sowed the seeds, but it takes long time, around one year [to germinate]! And it is a luxury, my Tunamas! (L.T., 65F)||Intrinsic, relational||Almost every family has sown Tunamas close to home for their aesthetic value; perhaps they have a deep relationship with the Wax Palm; in this case, the Tunama too has a deeper meaning, as it reminds her of her husband; when she refers to the Tunamas as a luxury, she expresses the enormous value given to their existence|
|48.||“Párasites, Helecha, Tunamas, Cedar, Oaks. There were no Oaks, nobody cared about sowing them...Once I came from Ubalá to Sion, like more than forty years ago, by the old path. That path also went to Guayatá [neighboring municipality], but there was no road. It was like two o’clock, in the afternoon... I sat down on a small hill of the same path to take a rest, close to the Clavijos’ farm. In front of it I saw some little sprouts, as I knew the Oaks... since I was a child my father taught me about them. There were five little sprouts, I brought them with care, and I planted them. One died, but the other four grew up, they are big trees! Once my brother asked to me to sell him one Oak [for timber], but I don’t sell my Oaks! When I sowed them, my father was still alive, those trees are old, they grow slowly. After them, more Oaks appeared.” (A., 80M)||Intrinsic, relational||He expresses his concern about the survival of Oaks; the traditional ecological knowledge passed on to him by his father when he was a child allowed him to recognize the little sprouts while resting on his way home; as paths and roads are cleaned to ease transit for people and domestic animals, this might mean that the trees may not survive there; he took care of them and, after many years (> 40) they became big Mother trees, with their offspring; talking about his Oaks reminds him of his father, so the Oaks have a deeper meaning for him; this story shows the reciprocal relationship between him and the Forest, now he has a small Oak Forest (a Robledal) at home|
|Context: perceived changes in Forest and ecosystem services flow|
|58.||“Sixty years ago, there was more Forest. It was only Forest, I mean everything there, on the other side of the Black River [neighboring village El Edén], it was only mountain, and forty years ago they damaged it, they burnt it, and you see the consequences that some start to suffer, because lack of water...it had to be... the fire was impressive! All that mountain was destroyed by fire.” (N., 65M)||Relational||The destruction of the Forest in the neighboring village resulted in less water being available for some people|
|59.||“Formerly this produced a lot of water, it was a lot, a lot. When the winter season, those streams and rivers overflowed...Hmmm it was like forty, fifty years ago, then maybe because of deforestation and most of the neighboring Forest of the village [neighboring villages], the water has become scarce, and more there in Lagunazul, during the summer.” (A., 80M)||Relational||For him, the Forest produced more water in past; water quantity has decreased as a consequence of deforestation, mainly in other villages; although the people in Sion have enough water, in other villages the availability is less|
|60.||“There were those lagoons...we took our clothes out ha ha ha! When we were children we went there, and without shoes, like at that time there was without shoes, barefoot.” (L., 49F)||Relational||People had and still have a deep relationship with water; she remembers pleasant moments in her childhood, when lagoons were more common|
|61.||“Now there is less water: I remember where the late Rogelio and the late Juan...there were lakes, very beautiful! Now there is nothing of that. And here, where Justino, that was a stream of water, but there isn’t now. There is less water, compared to what it was before, there is less water, the water sources that I knew!” (A.J., 65M)||Relational||Water was more abundant in the past; he has noticed the changes that have occurred in some waterbodies|
|62.||“When my grandparents lived, there were big trees, with a thick trunk, but not now; fauna has gone...before, we saw a lot of Deers, Coatis, Andean Guans, Armadillos, Tinajos (Pacas)...now there is less fauna.” (L., 49F)||Relational||Along with the big trees, there were a lot of animals; forest transformation has resulted in fewer big trees and thus less fauna|
|63.||“There were a lot of wild beasts...Bears, Lions [referring to native felines]. There were Lions, my grandmother told us that Lions came out of the Forest to eat the sheep, they had to secure them every afternoon close home. I never met that animal, just in pictures, but not face to face.” (L.T., 65F)||Relational||In the past, there were big mammals with which the human community probably entered into conflict|
|65.||The Bear, the Tiger and the Lion they are like in extinction, but there [referring to the Forest in the villages Sion and El Edén, in front and behind his house], they are there, because there is still Forest where to shelter, I mean home of them...I have seen the Bear in El Edén, but like it is not just in one place, it is...it is walking. It is like saying that we go from here to Bogotá or to another place.” (N., 65M)||Intrinsic, relational||The Forest is home to those animals, as the village is home to campesinos; areas with native vegetation coverage serve as the habitat for different species of fauna; animals, like people, move from one place to another, animals are like human beings|
|66.||“The Gallineta [a bird] I have not seen it again, neither listened it. Yes, the Gallinetas have been extinguished. They used to sing in summer and in winter too, but now, nothing! nothing, nothing.” (A., 80M)||Intrinsic, relational||He misses the Gallineta singing; as he has not seen or heard it anymore, he assumes that the Gallineta has disappeared; another perceived change in biodiversity|
|67.||“The Caicas and the Capachos [birds] also have gone. The Caicas made their nets in the wetlands, and when somebody came, they flew. The Capacho is a little nocturnal animal, they made their nets on the floor, they put one egg. Each year they got a chick, and we have not seen them again.” (D., 57M)||Intrinsic, relational||Not seeing fauna in its specific habitat, like Caicas in wetlands, is probably a sign of biodiversity loss|
|69.||“Now there are almost not Tadpoles, they have gone. My children needed them for a homework, and we almost did not find them, yes, they have gone; neither Frogs. When one was a kid, one liked playing with Tadpoles and seeing them, when the little legs were appearing, but now, there is almost nothing.” (M., 31F)||Intrinsic, relational||Tadpoles and Frogs were abundant in the past; new generations of children have no opportunity to experience some biodiversity values as their parents did|
|Context: lack of access to the Forest|
|71.||“I like a lot the birds if I could I would take pictures of all of them. They are very beautiful, and the plants too! Even when I was single, we used to hike in the Forest. When I lived in the next village, we went for hiking. We had a hike every eight days, and we went for all that mountain, up to the paramo! And it is beautiful; I like a lot! ...Children are still small to take them there, and also because of insecurity, precisely for that we suspended hikes, for public order problems, but we really liked a lot hiking in the woods.” (M., 31F)||Intrinsic, relational||People mention la violencia as being part of their memories about Forest transformation and eroded relationships between people and Nature; the internal armed conflict impedes people’s encounters with Nature in the Forest, especially for younger generations|
|72.||“...the hikes with family and as I told you, this was red zone, then people got scared and didn’t come more, then the village was left alone” (L., 21M)||Relational||People used to walk in the Forest with family and friends, but they can no longer do this because of concerns about the internal armed conflict that took place in the village|