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

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Protecting the Andean Cloud Forests of Ecuador

The source of four bi-national rivers that supply water to nearly one million people

Andean cloud forests are a top priority for biodiversity conservation in the world since they are home to a remarkable number of endemic species very much endangered by human activities. Due to their unique geography and climate, the cloud forests of southern Ecuador and northern Peru are considered among the most diverse areas for this vulnerable ecosystem.

Since 1997, NCI together with the German Research Foundation have carried out in this spectacular ecosystem the German government’s most important scientific program outside its territory. The program takes place in and around NCI’s San Francisco Scientific Station, which was created to lodge and educate a continuous stream of Ecuadorian and international researchers. The program has already generated a bounty of invaluable information regarding ecosystem management.

One of our most important accomplishments in the region was the declaration of the Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The reserve helps to protect over 2.6 million acres of Andean cloud forest and other important ecosystems.

In the Biosphere Reserve, we work with local communities and governments to create protected areas such as the Colambo-Yacuri Conservation and Development Area (183,000 acres) and the Angashcola Communal Forest Reserve (3,500 acres). We have also worked to decentralize the management of resources and place this responsibility in the hands of the local communities and District Assemblies. Providing these local communities with financially viable options to sustain their livelihood is fundamental to the conservation of this unique ecosystem. Through agricultural research and development programs, we have successfully assisted a number of communities in improving the quality and yield of a variety of native fruits such as the toronche, achira and the cherimoya, or custard apple. In one community in southern Ecuador, the sale price of cherimoya increased almost 10 times because of dramatic quality improvements, which subsequently had a significant positive impact on the financial well-being of the growers and their families.

Furthermore, the protection of the Andean cloud forest ecosystem is crucial because of the array of environmental services it provides, such as drinking water supplies and hydroelectricity. In fact, the cloud forests in this area are the source of four bi-national rivers that supply water to close to 1 million people in Ecuador and Peru.

 

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