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Conserving the Tumbesian Dry Forests of Ecuador

95% of these forests have been lost due to human activity

The tropical dry forests in the Tumbesian Region of southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru are home to a great number of unique plant and animal species. This area is a conservation priority within the Ecuadorian government and globally. Unfortunately, over 95% of this exceptional forest has been lost due to human activity.

In this threatened ecosystem, our efforts focus on the creation and consolidation of Conservation and Development Areas, where the local people sustainably interact with their environment and play an integral role in its conservation. Sustainable development initiatives enhance the quality of life for local populations while helping to protect the long-term integrity of the ecosystem. For example, development of an internationally-marketed perfume from the fruit of the Palo Santo tree called Amor America resulted in increased incomes and sustainable harvesting practices of this tree.

NCI currently owns and administers two reserves in southwestern Ecuador – the La Ceiba Natural Reserve (25,000 acres) in Zapotillo and the Laipuna Natural Reserve (4,000 acres) in Macará – and is working to create a third, the Cazaderos Natural Reserve, that could reach 25,000 acres. At all these reserves, we work closely with local community members to determine the best ways to plan the use of the territory, access its natural resources, and envision its long-term sustainable development. The City of Solana Beach and the San Diego Zoo are partnering with NCI to raise funds toward this effort.

We are also working to create community reserves within the Tumbesian Region. For example, NCI’s work with the Pozul community led to the establishment of an 8,000 acre community reserve. We are now working with the community to establish conservation management programs and sustainable development alternatives. Over 32,500 acres of dry forest have been protected in this manner. These community reserves and the NCI reserves create a corridor of connected protected areas that provide migration corridors for the many endemic and endangered species living in these forests.

To further support the protection of tropical dry forest ecosystems, NCI has implemented the DarwinNet project to effectively distribute information and make knowledge of tropical dry forests more accessible. DarwinNet is a binational initiative that aims to gather, analyze and disseminate information on the region’s dry forests, and stress the necessity of undertaking conservation measures.

 

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