Nature: Flora and Fauna of Ecuador
Ecuador has 10% of all of earth’s plants.
This country has more species of plants per area unit than any other country in South America. 18% of the total discovered birds in world, 1655 birds, are found in Ecuador. The 382 mammal species that exist in this country, comprise 7% of the 5,490 species registered in the world. It is, in summary, a rich tropical region, with wetlands, due to its privileged geographic location in the Neotropics, which makes it form part of this privileged list of biodiversity.
Like many visitors, we where surprised that the country is not only tropical but is also home to so many microclimates, including the snow capping the highest of the Avenue of Volcanoes’ 55 peaks (of which 14 are active). Another interesting detail is that the Chimborazo in Ecuador has an altitude of 6310 meters (20,703 feet). Mount Everest has a higher altitude, and Mauna Kea is “taller.” However, Chimborazo in Ecuador has the distinction of being the “highest mountain above Earth’s center.”
The climatic extremes are amazing, but it’s how fast it changes that is so startling. Yet, this, more than anything, illustrates how the tiny nation of Ecuador nurtures one of just 17 biological megadiversity hot spots on the planet.The numbers are staggering: 1600 – 15% of the world’s – bird species on the mainland alone and another 38% that are endemic to the Galapagos; 3500 orchid species, the most on Earth; 4500 or more butterflies; more than 16000 plant species, 106 reptiles and 138 amphibians native to the country, and so on.
Drive 20 minutes and everything changes, in this South American country that’s just smaller than Italy: the topography, climate, plants and animals – even the culture and language.
Threats from modernization
Unfortunately, Ecuador’s natural wealth is continuously challenged by unsustainable economic development from sectors such as oil and gas, fisheries, logging, mining and infrastructure. Coupled with rapid population growth, historically high deforestation rates, and an economy highly dependent on exporting raw materials rather than refined products.
Iconic species such as jaguars, great green macaws and brown-headed spider monkeys are all in jeopardy from the rampant habitat loss. Being one of the world “hot spots” of biodiversity – from dry tropical forest (less than 2% remaining in Ecuador), coastal humid tropical forest and coastal wet tropical forest (currently only 0.8% remaining)…
The deforestation figure in all of coastal Ecuador is 98%. The Pacific Equatorial Forest, which has suffered an estimated loss of 75% of its native forest, has thus fared somewhat better than the rest of the region owing to its limited access and more challenging topography. However, the construction of a new coastal highway through the region threatens to facilitate the deforestation of the last remnants of Pacific Equatorial Forest. Sadly the vast majority of the Pacific Equatorial Forest remains unprotected and continue to be logged and cleared for agriculture and cattle ranching. More than 60’000 hectares of forest are lost every year! In 2009 the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment launched its Socio Bosque (Forest Partners) program, which provides forest owners with an annual conservation subsidy of $30 per hectare ($12/acre), has had some traction in the region but the long-term efficacy is still uncertain.
Pachamama in Ecuador?
Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth mother.
Is there a alternative sustainable agricultural model?
The spread of organic agriculture is a multi-faceted process that includes a tension between economic and social factors. Nationally, public institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture serve as the central nodes of the network, but their initiatives to promote organic agriculture are less developed than those of both foreign and domestic NGOs. Key actors are more successful in spreading organic agriculture if they are perceived as legitimate and capable leaders. The spread of modern organic agriculture appears to follow the top-down diffusion model. However, a growing grassroots agroecology movement follows a more decentralized approach. (Source: Return to pachamama? The diffusion of organic agriculture in Ecuador by Sophie Fuchs, 2011)
Permaculture movement and communities
Ecuador permaculture movement is alive and well, but not exactly comparable to for example Costa Rica which is located much nearer physically to the United States. Costa Rica “Pura Vida” marketing-lifestyle-expression is definitely very different. 🙂 While exploring Costa Rica in 2014 for 4 weeks we did enjoy our stay and visited many so called Eco Villages, Green Resorts, beautiful Nature reserves and so picturesque Caribbean sand beaches. Here we got our inspiration to start to explore for a place for our own project PermaTree. In Ecuador there are various so called international communities and or Permaculture Farms, Private Reserves some of them which we have been able to visit. So far we have noticed that most projects are still in a phase of growth and there is much potential in working together for sure. The permaculture “idea” does help for sure. We have been avoiding places with too many expats at the beginning and did explore a few after a while like mountain village of Mindo and the city Cuenca later. Networking with similar minded people never hurts. In theory the idea behind “permaculture” should not be anything new for the remaining native and indigenous peoples, who have retained a balanced way of interacting with green living things for thousands of years. But reality is different than theory. In Ecuador many indigenous peoples such as the Shuar and the Achuar have a rather difficult time “adapting” to the so called modern world “work & consume”. Most local people here in Ecuador have never heard of the term “Permaculture” and if they live from agriculture then from pastureland and growing cows. It’s the same situation in Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. No big difference here. Ecuador has a very privileged geographic location and much less climatic issues than most countries we explored in South America.
The movement of sustainable communities in Ecuador reflects a bit the fact that it sits on the halfway mark of the Earth: it’s neither invisible nor well defined, though small, it has many projects, although they are not necessarily part of a functional network (Quote: Leti y Ryan – http://www.comuntierra.org)
The biodiversity is Ecuador’s main attraction, however there are is also a surprisingly diverse ecological movement with some very interesting and peculiar projects.
Permaculture inspired Farms in Ecuador:
- Guaycuyacu – Jim West http://www.guaycuyacu.net/ – in the foothills of northwestern Ecuador
- Bosque de bambu – Piet Sabbe http://www.bospas.org/ – Ibarra
- Finca mono verde – Arnaud http://www.fincamonoverde.com/ – between Pedernales and Jama
- Finca Ave Terra – “regenerativefarm” Jon Byrd and Fam. – Mindo
- Terra Frutis / frutarian community http://www.terrafrutis.com/ Gualaquiza
- Neverland Farm http://www.neverlandfarm.org/ – Vilcabamba
- Black Sheep Inn http://blacksheepinn.com/ – Chugchilán, Cotopaxi
- Finca la amistad http://www.fincalaamistad.net/ – Imbaruba
- Finca Sagrada http://www.fincasagrada.net/ – Vilcabamba
- Rio Muchacho http://www.riomuchacho.com/ – Canoa
- Sacred Suenos https://sacredsuenos.wordpress.com/ – Vilcabamba
- Eagle condor Farm http://www.eaglecondorfarm.com/ – Alausi
- Finca verde https://fincaverde.wordpress.com/ – Valladolid, Zamora-Chinchipe
Seed Savers Network – RGS
Another very interesting network in Ecuador are the Seed Saving Network (Red de Guardianes de Semillas de Ecuador) which is a Non-Profit Organization, established in November 2002. Currently there are more than 300 members in the RGS network which share their seeds. RGS also trains farmers to save seeds, providing a national platform for seed preservation, creating an effective network between campesinos and educating activists nationwide to conserve biodiversity and promote food sovereignty in country. Source: https://www.facebook.com/guardianesdesemillas/