Identification of biocultural and spiritual values of trees and palms. Valle de Aburra - Colombia


Human urban activities -induced changes that result in destruction and degradation of urban forest ecosystems and losses of their biodiversity. Large, giant or monumental trees or palms (in our case, those with a trunk with a perimeter at breast height (PBH) larger than 150 cm (trees) or 20cm (palms) and heights greater than 12 meters, have an outstanding cultural, spiritual, social, economic and ecological value. These trees and palms play essential ecological and identity community roles in urban and periurban territories and are used as habitat for a multitude of living organisms. (AMVA 2023, Verde 2022)
Giant trees and palms have Tree-Related Microhabitats (TreMs) structures like cavities and dead branches that are used for feeding, hiding and nesting for thousands of species. They are natural key elements in the landscape scale, since they can support many endangered species of flora and fauna and have been used as indicators of biodiversity in forest ecosystems.
As urban trees and palms grows, there is often an increase in its capacity to support biodiversity, since abundance (total quantity) and diversity (number of different elements) of TreMs usually increase with PBH.
Cultural and spiritual values are critical driving forces in nature conservation and ecosystem management but are often difficult to represent in decision-making processes, especially in urban areas. The cultural importance of natural ecosystems not only consists of tangible goods and services, but also includes many often intangible, non-material or information services. These non-material and spiritual values are part of local people’s vision and perceptions, play a pivotal role in shaping their respect and conservations actions of nature (Bas Verschuuren, 2012)
In Valle de Aburra (Colombia), over the past few years, efforts for nature conservation have been increased, which can be seen in creation of green urban conservation areas as Cerro Volador, Cerro Nutibara, Cerro la Asomadera who have important cultural roles in local and regional social dynamic. Identification of 1200 trees and palms with heritage value and more of 34 ecological network inside of Medellin city. However, there is still an increase in endemic and native species that disappear every day en Vale de Aburra context.

Identification and conservation of large (giant) trees and palms in urban context help to more people have been awake and alerted to importance of participated and integrate concrete actions of nature conservation in urban green areas such as forests, groves or isolated trees and palms.

This is where giant or large trees and palms come in.

Trees and palms , in addition to giving us oxygen and fixing atmospheric carbon, giving us resources such as wood or fruit, usually have associated cultural and historical values, especially those we encounter in our daily lives and which are in our gardens , public parks and private properties.

In a landscape increasingly transformed by man, it is important to conserve the few places that have the capacity to remain constant for several years and that thus allow the existence of life for decades.

Trees and palms of high ecological and cultural interest, usually also have unusual dimensions and therefore have a greater capacity to support microhabitats that allow the occurrence of these living beings.

In Southamerica, particularly in Colombia, there is a lack of information regarding the importance of giant or large urban trees and palms and their associated biodiversity and cultural-spiritual values, which is linked to a lack of regulations to preserve it. Some important efforts was made in Medellin, Bogota, and Valle de Aburra (Antioquia Region) (AMVA and I. Humboldt 2023).
With this project we can to contribute to growing body of knowledge on the importance of different cultural perceptions of urban trees and palms, urban forests ecosystems and urban landscapes for the development and strengthening of more effective and holistic strategies for forest ecosystem management and coexistence of simultaneous realities.
Large trees and palms with biocultural and spiritual values with preservation measures are necessary in Colombia and should be applied at both national and local level.


  • Evaluate the biocultural relevance of large trees and palms to promote the conservation of saproxylic biodiversity (i.e. species that depend on deadwood) and identify which factors have a role in the formation of TreMs. For that, a selection of trees will inventoried at a landscape scale in Vale de Aburra, Colombia.
  • Contribute to people¨s perception of nature related to culturally defined value and belief systems in Vale de aburra urban context. These form an important, often intergenerational, source of information, and can help knowledge to be accessible to understood by outsiders such as western-trained conservationists and conventional ecosystem managers.
  • Articulate some of this valuable information, relating with urban trees and their cultural and spiritual dimensions, to be considered in current urban ecosystem management and decision making.

With the follows objectives

  1. Identify larges trees and palms with biocultural and spiritual value in Vale de Aburra (urban and periurban áreas).
  2. Identify larges trees and palms with high ecological values and greater capacity to support microhabitats (TreMs diversity, TreMs compositions in trees and palms host).
  3. Develop technical format with the assessment criteria for biocultural and spiritual values of urban trees and palms.
  4. Accounting for the various trees perceptions and their corresponding cultural and spiritual values in the practice of urban ecosystem management forms in Valle de Aburra (Colombia).
  5. Diagnose and define management criteria for a group of trees and palms identified


We will use TreMs diversity and compositions concept, and Biocultural values concept for cultural and spiritual values based on the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas’ task force on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas(CSVPA), to identify microhabitats and cultural and spiritual value of some trees and palms and conservation state. Under TreMs methodology and CSVPA methodology.
The results of this study will be support the development of sustainable local conservation policies that will be part of AMVA local conservation action plan.

This is a first step taken towards the integral valorization of Giant trees and palms in Colombia Andes region – Antioquia department – Valle de Aburra, we hope that in the future it will be possible to replicate these efforts in other urban areas. Further opportunities to extrapolate these efforts at broader scales are highlighted, such as policies and regulations that may trigger this necessary valorization. (Verde, 2022)


The research will be accomplished in five time blocks:
T1. Forestry component, information collection in accordance with local protocols (SAU) and. agreement of an agenda and articulation with environmental management plans from the regional autonomous corporation (CAR).
Selection of giant trees and palms, with cultural assessment through documentary research about their species and other local information.
T2. Fieldwork visits, under microhabitats approach. Identification and analysis of structures in trees and palms selected that act as shelter for a large number of living beings. They are called microhabitats and can be, for example, cavities, dead branches, wounds on the bark, among others. In total there are 64 different structures that can be found in the Catalog of microhabitats, developed by the Integrate+ Project.
- recollection of local stories, (local interviews and informal talks with neighbors of giant trees and palms selected). We will to know values and uses of tree and palm species identified. (Social cartography).
T3. Lab and data collection.
T.4. Proposal of management model and Co-creation of methodology of monitoring field data collection with local neighbors according to their priorities.
T.5. Dissemination of results and challenges


The project will take place in 24 months and include 6 months of fieldwork in year 1 and 3 months of communication and back ground in year 2. The implementation is set in five milestones M1. Identification diagnostic and analysis secondary information.
M2. Field visit and Methodology co-creation with local communities.
M3. Fieldwork (visit trees, palms and groves).
M4. Data collection and processing information.
M5. Dissemination of project results to local community and public.


The project will have 3 tangible deliverables.
D1. Identification of group giant trees and palms and their biocultural and spiritual values in Vale de Aburra place.
D2. Give visibility to a network of trees, palms and groves that relate nature and culture, recognizing their biocultural heritage and micro habit importance.
D3. A management model that can be applied regionally to protect this trees and palms . This model includes urban planning and design guidelines for future urban and landscape interventions.

7. BIBLIOGRAPHY (ask for them)