Protecting the Andean Cloud Forests of Ecuador
The source of four
bi-national rivers that supply water to nearly one million
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
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.