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Ecuador is a small South American country, the size of New Zealand. Despite this, it houses one of the most fantastic arrays of landscapes, habitats and species on the planet.
Straddled by the equator and the Andean mountain chain and bordering the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador encompasses four distinct regions each with its own natural and cultural beauty, charm and value.
The coastal region is a mixed bag of beaches, bays and small islands where intermittent mangroves and lush jungles hug the coastline, greeting the rich sea-life of the ocean. Moving eastwards, the highland region is stringed by an avenue of snow-capped volcanoes sporting precious high altitude moorlands and rainforests.
Tapering to the east, the mountain landscape gives way to rivers and eventually to the hot, humid, lowland Amazon rainforest, exploding with life. Lastly, and more remote is the Galapagos Islands marine region that once upon a time enthralled Charles Darwin.
Unfortunately, Ecuador’s natural wealth is continuously challenged by unsustainable activities from sectors such as oil and gas, fisheries, logging, mining and infrastructure. Iconic species such as jaguars, great green macaws and brown-headed spider monkeys are all in jeopardy from the rampant habitat loss.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) began our involvement in Ecuador by focusing on Chocó rainforest, one of the most threatened habitat types in the country. More recently, we have started projects on the country’s coastal areas and on the Andean montane habitats.
The desire to improve the sustainability of local fisheries and ensure community benefits from marine protected areas is shared at many coastal sites across Latin America. With funding from the Darwin Initiative, FFI is working with local organisations in Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Ecuador to give artisanal fishers a voice and role in managing their marine natural resources.
FFI’s approach emphasises the importance of participatory governance, ecosystem-based management, and support for local culture, livelihoods and access rights. We are taking a distinct approach at each site, based on the national context and the specific priorities of the local fishing communities. A range of participatory and ecosystem-based management tools for marine conservation are being tested and implemented, including spatial zoning and securing marine resource management rights for local communities.
Bottom trawling for shrimp is one of the most damaging forms of unsustainable fishing, due to high levels of by-catch and physical impact on habitats. Coastal communities complain bitterly of the damage done to the marine ecosystem and their livelihoods.
In a new project, FFI is supporting Ecuadorian government agencies and NGO partners to monitor the ecological and socio-economic changes resulting from a recently imposed national ban on bottom trawling, with the exception of one form of shrimp trawling. The monitoring results, combined with a compilation of lessons learned from such bans elsewhere in the world, will help Ecuador to build public support for the ban and to avoid pitfalls, such as failure to manage changes in other fisheries, as people respond to changing distribution and abundance of resources.
At the same time, at Tárcoles in Costa Rica, FFI is supporting a fishing community and NGO partner, who have successfully lobbied for, protected and monitored a zone free of bottom trawling for shrimp. By communicating the impressive results, the project will consolidate political support for the exclusion of bottom trawling and encourage replication of the initiative in other community-based ‘Responsible Fishing Areas’.
The most significant tract of Chocó rainforest in Ecuador, the Awacachi Corridor, was in grave danger of being converted to pasture and palm oil plantations. This would have destroyed vital habitat for the Endangered great green macaw and many other threatened species as well as jeopardising a crucial wildlife corridor.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) stepped in to help Ecuadorian organisation Fundación Sirua to protect 10,000 hectares of forest. Our core work here is to maintain and improve biodiversity through reforestation, biodiversity monitoring and conservation enforcement by locally trained rangers selected from neighbouring communities.
The Ecuadorian government is striving to establish a system of Marine Protected Areas along its coast. FFI is supporting this process together with the national organisation Fundación Futuro Latino Americano and the Ministry of Environment. We are focusing especially on developing innovative participatory governance systems for the emerging protected areas.
We are also working with communities in the south of Ecuador to protect large areas of mangrove swamp and promote sustainable use of the crab and cockle populations that thrive there. FFI and partners are now forming a regional collaboration between Ecuador and initiatives in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, to advance innovative approaches to marine habitat conservation.
FFI is working with Fundación Sirua to reduce human pressure on the Awacachi Corridor by addressing issues of land tenure and promoting biodiversity-friendly products such as native bamboo and cacao, which can be grown under the natural forest canopy. We are also implementing environmental education programmes and strengthening Fundación Sirua’s institutional capacity. In addition, FFI is developing an ‘avoided deforestation’ project through the FFI-Macquarie partnership, in which the income from carbon credits can be used to finance conservation.
Hidden treasures off the Ecuador coast The eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean harbour a dazzling diversity of marine life. Remarkable numbers of species have been recorded, including five species of sea turtles, twenty kinds of whale and dolphin, hammerhead and whale sharks, manta rays and countless species of fish, corals and molluscs. Recognising the importance of Ecuadorean waters for both marine biodiversity and coastal communities, the Government of Ecuador is striving to establish a national network of Marine Protected…Read more