We are connecting habitats and communities to protect a biodiversity hotspot in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, as well as the forested watersheds that supply water to millions of people living downstream.
Our office in Cuenca has been leading the initiative since 2013.
The Andes Mountains contain some of the greatest levels of biodiversity on Earth due to the extraordinary number of species found in its cloud forests and high altitude ecosystems. Many of these species are endemic – found nowhere else in the world – making this one of the world’s number one priorities for biodiversity conservation.
However, the Andes’ vital ecosystems are threatened by unsustainable practices that provide poor economic returns. One major threat is the destruction of forests for cattle grazing, after which the soil is depleted. Recently, these forests have become increasingly threatened by logging and today, just 5% to 25% of the original forest cover remains in most areas.
We are working with local governments and communities to create a contiguous corridor of protected areas extending 600 miles down and across the spine of the Andes. This is especially significant as it will connect two protected areas, Sangay National Park and Podocarpus National Park, both of which are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
Ensuring habitat connectivity throughout the Andean Corridor
The spectacled bear, found in the Andes, in South America’s only bear species.
Between the Sangay and Podocarpus National Parks in the Andes of Central Ecuador remains an unprotected area that is considered one of Ecuador’s top conservation priorities. Its ecosystems provide important environmental services such as clean water, as well as connectivity along the Andes to ensure the survival of emblematic but threatened species such as the spectacled bear, mountain tapir, Andean condor and many more.
Safeguarding water supplies by protecting key ecosystems
Our primary conservation strategy in this region is to support municipalities in the creation of reserves that protect forested watersheds, which provide clean water to hundreds of thousands of people and conserve areas of high biodiversity. To date, we have played an integral role in the creation of 370,000 acres of reserves in the Andean Corridor, including: