"The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those have not viewed the world.”
― Alexander von Humboldt
The Cordillera Real of Ecuador, along the broad headwaters of the Amazon watershed—and squarely within the planet’s largest and most diverse biological hotspot—defines our primary region of intervention. We call these headwaters the Andean Amazon. Within this area we aim to protect remaining wild habitats and to restore intervened landscapes. The vital question is, How can these aims best be achieved?
Ecuador in shaded relief. FCT prioritizes conservation of the eastward flowing watersheds of the Andes chain—the Andean Amazon.
The experience of FCT in conservation has generated various common elements that in Spanish are called ‘ejes transversales’, or transverse themes, described on this website under Our Story. Environmental education, community empowerment, scientific research, reforestation, secure land tenure, support for sustainable agricultural practices and improved living conditions…these are invaluable conservation tools. But where do we want them to take Ecuador? What is the overarching goal? We describe that vision here.
Ecuador can be proud of the more than 20% of its territory under government protection, in large national parks and other conservation designations.
Ecuador’s protected areas include national parks, ecological reserves, wildland refuges, faunistic reserves and a geobotanical reserve.
But FCT believes that we need to complement the standard model of protected areas with multiple localized reserves. This is because tropical biodiversity encompasses many endemic species whose range is limited—to a mountaintop, a wetland, a deep valley—and not necessarily represented in the national parks. And the smaller the geographical range of a species, the greater the threat of its extinction. Does having 20% of Ecuador’s territory under state protection protect just 20% of the country’s species? No doubt more, and perhaps considerably more. But we can be certain that the protection falls far short of 100%.
A forest fragment outside the national park system. Its biodiversity begs protection.
In Ecuador, wild habitats persist in titled properties held by indigenous communities, agricultural associations and individuals. These habitats are found in uplands, steep slopes, remote corners, and places of difficult access on these private properties.
How will the deforestation frontier behind Liliana move during her lifetime?
FCT therefore will seek to fortify a network of private conservation areas. Our mission is to motivate farmers and rural residents to assume their vital role in biodiversity conservation. Ecuador’s Constitution of 2008 anticipates this need and provides the opportunity for individual and collective private landowners to be a formal part of the national system of protected areas, SNAP.
But to identify and conserve isolated remnants of Ecuador’s original forest cover is not enough. Fragmented habitats are biologically fragile. Their species are particularly subject to extinction, especially in the context of global climate change. To connect the private conservation network, and to connect large national parks with these valuable remnants, FCT envisions using the natural network of water courses as a template for riverine forest restoration.
Forested corridors will provide connectivity for fragmented habitats, allow gene flow from more to less diverse landscapes, 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 move as climate changes. 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 they have been reforested, rivers and streams will function as biological corridors, increasing local biodiversity and allowing species to move.
Our efforts in the future respond to the urgency of the planetary extinction event underway. We propose a combination of interventions that provide natural environments the opportunity to restore themselves. Our vision is an Ecuador reborn as a network of forests linking wild areas, creating a landscape that educates as it conserves.