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Ecuador - Saving Andean, Amazonian, and Dry Forest Ecosystems in one of the world's biodiversity priorities


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Podocarpus - El Condor Biosphere Reserve

2.6 million acres
3,500 plant species
600 species of birds

The Podocarpus – El Condor Biosphere Reserve covers an area of over 2.6 million acres in southern Ecuador. This area, which includes the Podocarpus National Park, is considered to be one of the most important sites for biodiversity in the world. It contains 3,500 plant species, over 40% are which are endemic or restricted to this area, including an abundance of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and tree species. Along with such attractive mammals as the spectacled bear, mountain tapir, ocelot and puma, the Reserve is home to almost 600 bird species, including 61 species of hummingbirds and 81 different tanagers. Birds include the spectacular Andean cock-of-the-rock, and many endemic species such as the Neblina Metaltail and the White-breasted Parakeet.

Elevations across the reserve range between 700 and 3,790 meters above sea level, and rainfall amounts vary widely across the region, averaging between 380 and 8,000 millimeters per year. These conditions have shaped 48 distinct types of ecosystems with exceptional biodiversity. The páramos, or high altitude grasslands, and cloud forests of the reserve are the source of 4 bi-national rivers that supply water to almost 1 million people in Ecuador and Peru. Because of the ecological richness of the area, numerous international research initiatives and academic training programs have been developed in the reserve. This area also contains the territories of the indigenous Shuar and Saraguro groups, the cities of Loja and Zamora, and several centers of religious culture and tourism such as El Cisne, Vilcabamba, and Nangaritza.

Nature & Culture International has been working to conserve this unique region by seeking protective status of the most important sites as fully protected areas, working with local peoples to improve resource management, and assisting indigenous Shuar communities to protect over 50,000 acres of their ancestral homelands. NCI also operates its San Francisco Scientific Station in this area on 2,500 acres of lush cloud forests.

The Podocarpus – El Condor Biosphere Reserve was formally recognized by UNESCO in October 2007, and has had the support of local public and private institutions, including the Provincial Councils of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe, the municipalities of Loja and Zamora, the Ministry of Environment, the National University of Loja, the Private Technical University of Loja, and the MAB-UNESCO Program in Ecuador.

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