"The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those have not viewed the world.”
― Alexander von Humboldt
The Cordillera Real of Ecuador is situated along the broad headwaters of the Amazon
watershed and squarely within the planet’s largest and most diverse biological hotspot.
Within these headwaters we aim to protect remaining wild habitats and to restore
altered or degraded landscapes. The vital question is, How can we best achieve these
Ecuador in shaded relief. FCT prioritizes conservation of the Andean Amazon – the eastward flowing watersheds of the Andes mountain chain.
FCT’s conservation activities have various common and interrelated elements:
environmental education, community empowerment, scientific research, reforestation,
land tenure security, sustainable agricultural practices, and improved living conditions.
But how can these tools contribute to the future of Ecuador’s natural heritage? What is
the overarching goal?
We describe that vision here.
Ecuador should be proud that more than 20% of its territory is under government
protection, in large national parks or in other conservation designations. But FCT
believes that the current model of state protection needs to be complemented with the
protection of multiple localized reserves. This is because tropical biodiversity
encompasses many endemic species whose range is spatially limited—to a single
mountaintop, a wetland, a deep valley—and chances are therefore high that many
species will be found outside the limits of national parks. And the smaller the
geographical range of a species, the greater the threat of extinction. So, although
admirable, the protection of 20% of Ecuador’s territory falls to protect the majority of its
These pastures were carved from forest; the remnant fragments are in dire need of protection.
In Ecuador, intact wild habitats persist in private properties held by indigenous
communities, agricultural associations, and individuals. These habitats are found in
uplands, steep slopes, remote corners, and places of difficult access. In its
reforestation initiatives in the Nudo del Azuay, FCT routinely seeks to motivate owners
to preserve their remaining wild habitats through conservation agreements. FCT also
works to promote civil society conservation in Ecuador by supporting the efforts of other
NGOs dedicated to establishing a network of privately-owned reserves. It is opportune
that Ecuador’s Constitution of 2008 provides the means for private reserves to have a
formal role of the National System of Protected Areas, or SNAP. In effect, civil society
and its property owners are invited to be an integral component of Ecuador’s
conservation structure. The structure for a national network of private reserves thus
exists; the challenge is to make it real. Our mission, therefore, is to motivate farmers
and rural residents to assume their vital role in biodiversity conservation.
How will the deforestation frontier behind Liliana move during her lifetime?
As challenging as private conservation of remnant habitats may be, conserving those
remnants is not enough. Fragmented or disconnected forests and páramos are
biologically fragile, and their species are particularly subject to extinction, especially in
the context of global climate change. To connect private reserves, and to connect
national parks with these valuable remnants, FCT envisions utilizing natural water
courses as a template for riverine forest restoration.
Forested corridors will connect isolated habitats, allow species to move from more to
less diverse habitats, protect rivers and their hydrologic services, restore aquatic
ecologies, produce firewood and fodder for the domestic livestock of riverine property
owners, and provide a hedge against extinction, because species can migrate as
climate changes. Below the high Andean páramos, Ecuador was once a forested
landscape, almost in its entirety. By re-establishing riverine forests, a first step is taken
to reinstate a diminished heritage and remedy habitat fragmentation.
Once reforested, rivers function as biological corridors, increasing local biodiversity and allowing
species to move between previously isolated remnants, creating more robust ecosystems.
Our efforts are a response to the urgency of the planetary extinction event underway.
The combination of interventions we propose will create an opportunity for natural
environments to restore themselves. Our vision is an Ecuador reborn as a network of
protected forests and paramos linked by bio corridors, creating a landscape that
educates as it conserves.