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Ecuador - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Ecuador is one of the 17 megadiverse countries of the world. This diversity is due to the location of the country in the neotropics, the presence of the Andes and the influence of the ocean’s currents on its coasts. It is divided into 4 well-defined natural geographical zones: coast, mountain range, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. In terms of conservation, it is divided into continental Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, although such efforts are not homogeneously divided in the country. Ecuador possesses 26 distinguished habitat types, each one with characteristic flora related to altitude and precipitation levels. Among them are three of the world’s 10 biodiversity “hot spots”, namely, the humid forests of the northwest, outside faces of the mountain range and the Amazon forests of the northeast. Ecuador is recognized globally for its vast floristic richness, which is still not very well known and often under threat. It is estimated that the country has more plant species per unit area than any other country in South America. However, the Galapagos National Park and the Marine Reserve, declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are presently in danger. In response, the Government has undertaken a series of actions aimed at strengthening the institutional processes in the region.

The total forest cover is about 11.6 million ha, of which 11.5 million ha constitute natural forest and 78,000 ha plantations, representing 42% of the total national surface area. Ecuador has red-listed vertebrates, birds and reptiles. Although a Red List does not exist for Ecuador’s amphibians, their conservation status has been categorized by the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA) which has been an effective tool for taking management and conservation decisions. No documentation exists to clarify the conservation status of fish species. Ecuador recognizes that, in spite of the fact that information on biodiversity has increased in the last few years, information is still lacking in regard to the country’s ecosystems and drivers of change to biodiversity.

The Galapagos Islands are unique in the world in that they are a self-contained ecological system and an ecoregion with a high level of biological endemism. These islands constitute the last undisturbed ecosystem of insects in the world where it is possible to identify patterns that existed before homogenization by introduced species of insects. Notably, it is estimated that 50% of vertebrates could become extinct if conservation efforts are not successful. Bird species appear to have a greater potential risk of extinction. In the last few years, there has been no evidence of biodiversity loss. To this day, 95% of the original biodiversity has been maintained. The Galapagos could represent one of the largest conservation challenges and opportunities for Ecuador.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threat to biodiversity conservation in Ecuador is deforestation, with Ecuador ranked second among Latin American countries in terms of highest levels of deforestation. Firewood collection, urban expansion, petroleum exploration and exploitation, agriculture, mining, fishing, overexploitation of natural resources, poverty, human migrations, tourism development, and introduced species are other important aspects contributing to the deterioration of the country’s biological richness in both continental and island areas.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The National Biodiversity Policy and Strategy (Política y Estrategia Nacional de Biodiversidad del Ecuador (2001-2010)) addresses five main themes: fragile ecosystems (with a particular emphasis in pàramo, wetlands, mangroves, marine ecosystems and dry forest), strengthening of the protected areas national system and protection of threatened species, sustainable agriculture and the rehabilitation of degraded areas (emphasizing food security and sovereignty), biocommerce, biosafety and genetic resources.

The document proposes 4 main strategic axes, as well as management measures, areas of priority and actions: (1) consolidate and strengthen the sustainability of production activities based on native biodiversity; (2) ensure the existence, integrity and functionality of all biodiversity components (ecosystems, species, genes); (3) balance pressures from conservation and sustainable use on biodiversity; and (4) guarantee the respect and exercise of individual and collective rights to participate in decisions related to access and control of resources, and ensure that the benefits derived from the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as from the use of knowledge, innovations and practices of the indigenous communities and local populations, are justly and equitably distributed. It is recognized that, in spite of the existence of EIA legislation, the State has often failed to comply with the constitutional mandate to consult affected populations. Other sectors that have also not complied with this mandate are agribusiness, mining, manufacturing, timber and fisheries.

To date, the NBSAP has not been properly implemented due to its many limitations (e.g. the scope of competencies of different government levels is unclear, mainstreaming strategies are limited). Also, the legal framework for the NBSAP is incomplete and one of the main obstacles to its implementation. Moreover, initiatives in Ecuador are not necessarily linked to the NBSAP which was created in 2000 and only approved in 2007. Consequently, initiatives have followed a “common sense” approach and considered the experiences gained by different private, public and international organizations.

Ecuador is currently in the process of updating its NBSAP.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Government has taken several important steps in the Galapagos Islands to support the conservation of biodiversity (e.g. conversion of 96% of land area into a national park, commitment to protect the Galapagos as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, creation of the Marine Reserve of the Galapagos).

As a result of various initiatives, such as the Reforestation and Conservation Programme for the Chongón-Colonche Mountain Range, the rate of deforestation has been reduced from 2.39% (1990-2000) to less that 0.5% (2005) annually. In the last 10 years, the clearing of mangroves has also been reduced. Conservation advances in the Galapagos Islands correspond to the recovery of threatened species (e.g. giant turtles, iguanas, red-footed booby, mangrove finch), as well as to the recovery of important ecosystems. Studies have been conducted on turtles and the pink iguana, as have censuses on native and endemic bird populations.

The Ministry of Environment has developed and promoted initiatives to train and educate forest rangers in Ecuador. A Marine Coastal Environmental Education Program also exists which aims to raise biodiversity awareness among populations living in coastal zones and on riverbanks. Public awareness programmes require strengthening as current resources are insufficient to increase public opinion. Numerous activities have emerged from local initiatives and are linked to issues such as forest resources management, alternatives to decrease marginalization and poverty, definition of the uses of biodiversity products and environmental services, among others.

The Yasuní Initiative developed by the Ecuadorian Government aims to minimize the causes of climate change at the source by offering financial compensation (provided by the international community) for not exploiting the oil reserves in the Yasuní National Park. The three objectives of another initiative entitled the Forest Partnership Program include: the protection of forests and their economic, ecological and cultural values; the reduction of deforestation rates and associated greenhouse gases; the improvement of the living conditions of the poor. Due to limited resources, there are no programs to control invasive species in continental Ecuador. However, an inspection and quarantine system exists in the Galapagos to prevent the introduction of new species and organisms to the region.

A project focused on capacity-building for socioeconomic assessment of the High Andean wetlands is underway. Activities include training and awareness-raising for environmental decision-makers, municipal technicians, water authorities and other groups on the values and functions of local wetlands through socioeconomic assessments. Efforts are concentrated on two regions in particular (Tungurahua and Ona-Saraguro-Yacuambi). Training modules for socioeconomic valuation have been developed.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Biodiversity has been integrated in the following sectors: agriculture, education, health, fisheries, water resources, mining and petroleum, tourism and commerce/industry. A proposal for biodiversity legislation has not yet been approved. The Forestry Law has not yet been revised although Ecuador does possess a Law on Forestry and Conservation of Natural Areas and Wildlife.

Continental Ecuador does not possess any plans or legislation on land use. Conversely, the Galapagos Islands have strong spatial plans. In the last 10 years, legislation regarding the development of the islands has been put in place, restricting residents’ freedom of rights, ownership and commercial activity. Spatial plans in the Galapagos include a regional plan to regulate land management, the Galapagos National Park Management Plan and the Galapagos Marine Reserve Management Plan.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Ecuador recognizes the need to revise the NBSAP for the next 10 years in order to address new and emerging problems, threats and trends. The National Development Plan highlights a number of protection and recovery initiatives related to forests (e.g. National Decentralized Forest Control System, Reforestation and Conservation Programme for the Chongón-Colonche Mountain Range, Green Watch Program, National Forestry Program, National Plan for Afforestation and Reforestation, strengthening of an outsourced system for forest control).

Continental Ecuador does not have an overall formal mechanism providing information and serving as a monitoring system on the use of biodiversity. On the contrary, there are several mechanisms for monitoring and collecting information from the marine reserve in the Galapagos Islands.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme