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Fundación Cordillera Tropical

27 Case Pkwy

Burlington, VT 05401



© 2019   Fundacion Cordillera Tropical  

Andean Amazon Research Institute

Good decisions require accurate and timely information in the service of a clearly-defined outcome. For conservation efforts to be effective, and the best possible preparations made for climate change, decision-makers and the public require the fruits of research.  FCT supports this need with its Andean Amazon Research Institute (AARI).


The AARI maintains the following fundamental objectives:

  1. Generate research-based data on the flora, fauna, ecology, hydrology, physical geography and human-nature relationships of the tropical Andes, with special emphasis on the upper Amazonian watersheds of the Cordillera Real in Ecuador.

  2. Publish and otherwise disseminate among relevant state institutions, researchers, the public, and non-government conservation organizations the information generated by the Institute.

  3. Use the results of research to achieve positive conservation outcomes in projects carried out by FCT and other conservation organizations, and work to scale up these projects throughout the Andean Amazon.

  4. Create an international network of tropical mountain researchers.



Fundación Cordillera Tropical has to date generated a large body of information centered on the Nudo del Azuay, a mountainous region in the Paute watershed.  Research objectives have encompassed the biological, physical and social sciences. 

Biological Sciences

Multiple studies have focused on the charismatic Andean bear, with emphasis on bear demography and habitat use.  Inventories have been generated for birds (160+ species to date), amphibians (with four new species to science), reptiles, mammals, aquatic invertebrates and butterflies.  The five watersheds of the Nudo del Azuay have been thoroughly studied with camera traps, creating a photographic inventory of the complete wild fauna.

Floral inventories have included montane forest trees and ferns.  Various studies have helped define species adequate for silvopastoral initiatives, and researchers have carried out various time series studies of vegetation change in the Nudo del Azuay and Sangay National Park.


Physical Sciences

Because rivers reflect the health of their watersheds, and provide a valued environmental service as hydroelectric energy sources, FCT has focused on river hydrology and river geomorphology.  Much work has been done, as well, in assessing the paramo habitat’s role in soil carbon processes, including storage, the effect of vegetation cover on those processes, and the hydrologic property of paramo soils under different land uses. 

Social Sciences

Conservation in inhabited landscapes absolutely requires an understanding of and coordination with local residents.  In response to this need, FCT researchers have investigated the potential role of ecosystem service payments in achieving conservation objectives, and in particular the factors that would motivate participation in PES programs.  FCT has contributed to the understanding of native camelids (alpacas and llamas) as low-impact grazers in paramo.


AARI offers to researchers from Ecuador and abroad an array of services:

  1. An office in Cuenca with Internet access, a physical library, digital map library, conference space, secretarial support, and GIS capabilities.

  2. Standing and potential cooperative agreements with local universities and institutions, among them the Universidad Politécnica Salesiana, University of Cuenca, University of Azuay, ETAPA (the local water company, responsible for the operation of Cajas National Park), FONAPA (the local watershed management trust) and HidroAzogues (a governmental hydroelectric production company).Other agreements can be fashioned as required by researchers.

  3. Working relationships with other conservation organizations in southern Ecuador and throughout the country, and with the Ministry of the Environment and Sangay National Park, located in the Cordillera Real.

  4. Housing and a planned scientific station at the Rumiloma site, situated within the southern portion of Sangay National Park.

  5. An array of scientists who have worked in the Nudo del Azuay (including FCT’s Research Team) and from whose experience valuable insights into new research projects can be gained, and relationships forged with local scientists.

  6. An intimate knowledge of the Cordillera Real, and the ability to meet the logistical and administrative needs of researchers.


For details on research carried out to date under FCT auspices, please see our Publications tab on this website.