Modelling and implementation of ecohydrological restoration alternatives at the Zapatosa Wetland Complex (ZWC) in Colombia




Demosite Location
Demosite Location


Demosite Location

Information about lithology/geochemistry:

Recent sediments from the lower basin of the César River, Perijá foothill, and the Magdalena River floodplain.

Main Description

  • Wetland complex under high anthropic pressure; it includes the Zapatosa wetland, which is the largest freshwater wetland in Colombia (310 km2), located on the Cesar River Delta before it discharges into the Magdalena River.
  • Serves as a supply of food (fish), raw materials (wood and fiber), fresh water, cultural services related to tradition and folklore, habitats for diverse fauna and flora, flow buffering, and climate regulation.
  • The ZWC was designated a Ramsar site in 2018 and a regional protected area through the figure of the Regional District of Integrated Management (RDIM) in December 2019. It is also a conservation area in the Water Basin Development and Management Plan (POMCA, its Spanish acronym) of the lower César River.

Conserve Ecohydrological processes in natural ecosystem


Enhance ecohydrological processes in novel ecosystem


Apply complementary Ecohydrological processes in high impacted system


This table presents the different categories of ecosystem services that ecosystem can provide, divided in:

Provisioning Services are ecosystem services that describe the material or energy outputs from ecosystems. They include food, water and other resources.

Food: Ecosystems provide the conditions for growing food. Food comes principally from managed agro-ecosystems but marine and freshwater systems or forests also provide food for human consumption. Wild foods from forests are often underestimated.

Raw materials: Ecosystems provide a great diversity of materials for construction and fuel including wood, biofuels and plant oils that are directly derived from wild and cultivated plant species.

Fresh water: Ecosystems play a vital role in the global hydrological cycle, as they regulate the flow and purification of water. Vegetation and forests influence the quantity of water available locally.

Regulating Services are the services that ecosystems provide by acting as regulators eg. regulating the quality of air and soil or by providing flood and disease control.

Local climate and air quality: Trees provide shade whilst forests influence rainfall and water availability both locally and regionally. Trees or other plants also play an important role in regulating air quality by removing pollutants from the atmosphere.

Ecosystem services "that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services". These include services such as nutrient recycling, primary production and soil formation.

Habitats for species: Habitats provide everything that an individual plant or animal needs to survive: food; water; and shelter. Each ecosystem provides different habitats that can be essential for a species’ lifecycle. Migratory species including birds, fish, mammals and insects all depend upon different ecosystems during their movements.

Cultural Services corresponds nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences.

Recreation and mental and physical health: Walking and playing sports in green space is not only a good form of physical exercise but also lets people relax. The role that green space plays in maintaining mental and physical health is increasingly being recognized, despite difficulties of measurement.

Aesthetic appreciation and inspiration for culture, art and design: Language, knowledge and the natural environment have been intimately related throughout human history. Biodiversity, ecosystems and natural landscapes have been the source of inspiration for much of our art, culture and increasingly for science.


Demosite Location
Life zone
Dry forest

PPT(mm/yr): 1690.0

T(ºc): 28.4

Elevation of demosite: 32.0 meters above sea level
Humidity: Perhumid
PETr (by year): 0.99

EH Principles

Quantification of the hydrological processes at catchment scale and mapping the impacts

Distribution of ecosystems and their relevant processes (ex: metabolism=water and nutrient uptake and retention; biomass production)

Ecological engineering (integration, dual regulation and biotechnologies in catchment scale for enhancement of ecological potential)


Guidelines for use, management, and conservation of the ZWC supported by ecohydrological models.

Ecohydrological Infrastructure

Ecological restoration through integrated fishery enhancement units and community conservation initiatives.


Major Issues

  • Loss of critical habitats of aquatic, riverside, and catchment systems that affect the complex’s natural resources and its ecosystem services

Social ecohydrological system

EH Objectives

Cultural Heritage

EH Methodology

  • Construction and use of ecohydrological models as tools for determining conditions and aspects relevant to changes in ecosystem dynamics, nutrient transport, and for determining how to use hydrology for biota regulation.

Catchment Ecohydrological sub-system


  • To re-establish the dialogue between natural systems, communities and institutions in order to enhance the wealth of the region’s ecosystem with the aim of improving quality of life for the population.

  • Stakeholders

  • Local environmental authorities

  • riverside community

  • fishing communitie

  • livestock farmers

  • agriculturists

  • municipal authorities

  • NGOs

  • Catchment Sociological sub-system


    • Ecohydrological conceptual model (hydrological, hydrodynamics modelling with social ecohydrology

    • biotic, physicochemical, hydrobiological and biogeoelement sampling)

    • scenario simulation for management (community conservation initiatives, restoration strategies, guidelines for use, conservation and management)

    Expected Outcomes

    • Guidelines for decision-making on use, management, and conservation of the ZWC with a socio-ecosystemic approach.

    Latest Results

    • Construction and calibration of the hydrological model for the César River basin and the hydrodynamic model for the ZapatosaWetland Complex

    • Laboratory results for three physical and hydrobiological sampling campaigns at the ZapatosaWetland Complex


    Beatriz Hernández

    • Fundación Natura Colombia



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