A Small Piece Of World's Biodiversity
Ecuador, the most diverse country in proportion to its territory, ranked among the 17 “mega diverse” countries in the world with 9,2 species (flora and fauna) per km2. Its extension represents only 0.17% of global land area, but has 10% of the flora, 10% of vertebrate animals and 3% of hummingbird species of the whole world.
Ecotourism, bird watching and observation of flora, whale watching, and agricultural tourism, among other activities in Ecuador, evoke respect on locals and visitors to inspire the implementation of management plans and capability studies for the resources offered.
This is the case in Ecuador, which possesses fantastic biodiversity. With innumerable landscapes and incredible attractions and ecosystems not to mention plants and animals it’s not surprising that Ecuador has 48 protected areas. Actually, of the 28 million hectares of Ecuadorian territory, over 4.67 million hectares are part of protected areas, meaning that 18% of Ecuador’s territory consists of protected areas.
Therefore we have considered some of the different ways to make tourism in Ecuador for every type of tourist, from the reserves with comfortable hospitality to those appropriate for the more adventurous in search of less frequented destinations. You can even combine an arduous ascent of an Andean mountain followed by a restful night’s sleep in one of the many spas near volcanic hot springs.
The richness of Ecuador lies in its DIVERSITY:
Counts with big territory of protected areas (18% of the country’s surface).
Owns two Natural Heritage National Parks, Galapagos and Sangay.
Got three Biosphere Reserves declared by UNESCO, Sumaco, Yasuni and Galapagos National Parks.
The second in the world that owns endemic mammals’ diversity.
The third in the world that owns amphibians’ diversity.
The fourth in the world that owns birds’ species.
The fifth in the world that owns papilonidaes butterflies.
House the 10% of the whole plants in the world.
Contains the 11% of the whole vertebrate animals in the planet.
Hosts the 35% of the whole world’s hummingbird species.
All of it in 0,19% world’s land surface.
Reasons for all this diversity
The Andes, due to the altitude, creates mountain range splits along the country, from North to South, creating microclimates. Ecuador’s geographical location in the Tropic of Cancer, the warmest region of the planet. The influence of both oceanographic phenomenoms: “El Niño” warm and humid current from the North and “Humboldt” cold and dry current from the South
Paradise For Bird Lovers
No other country in the world has as many bird species in such a small land area. With a list of over 1630 species, Ecuador ranks fourth in the world in bird diversity. You don’t need to be an expert to notice Ecuador’s birds diversity. Fourteen species are found only in Ecuador, such is the case of the Black Breasted Puffleg hummingbird, the official bird of Quito, only found at Pichincha Volcano. Another 260 species are found only in Ecuador and its neighboring countries.
More than 100 sites of special importance of bird diversity have been identified in Ecuador, IBAs (Important Bird Areas) are part of an international program designed to protect sites of exceptional importance for bird conservation, coordinated by Aves & Conservacion, a Bird Life International’s partner, which main criteria for the identification of the sites are the presence of endangered and/or endemic species altogether with migratory and gregarious species.
Ecuador’s IBAs are found not only in national protected areas, but also in urban sites; more than 50% of the country’s IBAs already have tourist facilities and are growing in infrastructure. Moreover, Ecuador holds the world’s top two Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs), the Chocá and Tumbesian, within a short distance from each other. Nowhere else in the world are such distinct bird species in such close proximity. The ChocÃ³ is best accessed from Quito and just in a one week you can see over 300 species, being the main birding areas in the Chocá, the Tandayapa Valley, Mindo Valley, Mindo Bird Reserve, Rio Silanche Bird Reserve and the Canande region of the Northwest Ecuador, same as super birding opportunities and excellent local guides.
There are close to 320 species of mammals, which one third are fruit eaters, fish, frogs or insect eater bats. The existence of 17 species of monkeys including spider monkeys, capuchin, titie and chichicos monkeys; Also 3 species of the biggest Southamerican mammal, the tapir.
Record in the Andean cloud forest, the only Southamerican bear, the vegetarian spectacle bear which also inhabit other countries in the north South America.
Among aquatic mammals, diverse dolphins, whales, otters were record and the more every day scarce white river dolphin and manatee.
Numerous predators such as jaguars, pumas, ocelots, Andean wolfs, among others, difficult to watch due to the indiscriminate hunting and habitat destruction they suffer.
There is 1.250 species in Ecuador, of which close to 800 are fresh waters, many of them well known in aquariums around the world. Some could be really dangerous like the eel which let discharge 600 volts; others like piranhas aren’t dangerous with awful reputation though, considering that native’s bath in the jungle lagoons full of them with no problem.
If vertebrates diversity are consider amazing, the invertebrates, specially insects are unimaginable, in fact many of them are still unidentified by science, therefore is impossible to mention a number, not even a rough amount of them, in any case they achieve an important role being principal decomposers and herbivores in the majority of ecosystems
Tourists visiting for the first time tropical areas will be appeal by many butterfly species, among which stand out for their size and the metallic blue Morpho colorful as well as Urania. These species are easily seen in the Amazon especially when crossing rivers or streams. Another group really fascinating is the ant. Of the thousands of species attract attention the leafcutter and army ants.
Flora in Ecuador
Currently there is a wide selection of plants diversity, estimated in 20.000 species including ferns and seed plants, one of the most diverse in the world, of which one of every four species are endemic (exclusive from the here), 4.143 in total.
POLYLEPIS OR PAPER TREE (Polylepis Incana)
Available over the 3.000 m at the moorlands, its name comes from the Greek roots poly (many) and letis (layers), referring to its odd detached fine bark which is replaced and tree’s protection from insect’s damage.
CEIBA (Ceibo Trichistandra)
These giant trees are located mainly in the dry forest of Manabí, Santa Elena, Guayas, El Oro and Loja provinces. Adapted with enormous and strong roots, aiding to stabilize and control land erosion same as to keep an active soil by filtering water during dry season without mentioning that is one of the few species that convert luminous energy into chemical from its bark. Contributes to the industry producing “vegetal loom” in order to elaborate pillows and matrixes.
FRAILEJON (Espeletia pycnophylla ssp. Llanganatis)
This specie is one of the most common in northern Ecuador and there are several subspecies in the Central Highlands as well, both in the height of 3,100 – 4,500 m. Is tipical of the frailejon to have very soft pubescent leaves, flowering with numerous yellow flowers and high healing properties, plants that reach a gigantic size at “El Ángel Reserve” growing up to 10 m tall.
CHUQUIRAGUA OR CLIMBER’S FLOWER (Chuquiraga jussieui)
Gender that includes 20 different species in South America; its flowers are bright orange size, hard needles and branches same as countless oval leaves. It’s often pollinated by the ecuadorian hillstar hummingbird (the only specie at this altitude), pollen used in infusions with diuretic and tonic purposes, same as bark and flowers to avoid altitude sickness.
TAXO – PASSIFLORA (Passiflora tripartita)
Called “Flower of Quito” due to its presence in parks, gardens and at its wild, flowering a rich calcium, iron, phosphorus tangy sweet fruit, used for juice, shakes and ice creams, some healing sedative properties, reducing anxiety and insomnia. Its name because of it flower resemblance to the “Christ Passion” instruments: three nails represented by three pistils, five stamen’s anthers to the sores significance, flower’s crown as representation of the thorn crown, ten petals due to the 10 apostles, excepting Peter and Judas.
Consider one of the most well known plants in the World due to its pleasant exotic colorful leaves, inflorescence and fruit, originally from American continent, Ecuador counts with 455 native species of which 156 are endemic. Due to its epiphytic habit the greatest concentrations are in tropical ecosystems but here are spread from mangroves areas (Tillandsia disticha) and dry forest (Vriesia spinosa) in the coast, cloud forest (Guzmania lingulata) and over rocks (Puya angelensis) in the highlands to Amazonian trees (Aechmea zebrine).
Often called the “queens” over all the “flowers kingdom”, Ecuador gets the name of the first world producer with 4.215 record (United States 350 and Brazil, second in number with 3.800 species), of which 1.301 are endemic species, being the vanilla flower (vanilla planifolia) one of the most popular; in general consider also as “queens of imitation” due to its amazing ways to imitate female flies’ pheromones to attract males looking for reproduction, others use a less romantic seduction purpose spreading a rot meat fragrance to attract insects, same as adaptations in shapes adopting butterflies looks for the same pollination reason.
YELLOW GUAYACAN TREE (Tabebuia chrysantha)
This 12 to 22 m high tree owns a hard compact cylinder bark shape and deep strong roots, though what it makes it most attractive are its golden yellow flowers, common in different provinces like Esmeraldas, Manabi, Guayas, El Oro and Loja, specially Mangahurco parish consider part of the 40.000 hectares “protected guayacan forest” blooming 8 days after the beginning of the rainy season (January, February) delighting locals and visitors for 5 to 6 days covering the area with a yellow mantle covered resembling a painting. Also record as one of the most durable woods, used a lot in the world’s industry.