Biodiversity of the Intag region

The cloud forests of the Intag area of Ecuador are in the confluence of two of the world’s hottest of the biological hotspots; the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena, and the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspots. Though only the sixth of the largest hotspot, the Tropical Andes is considered the single richest hotspot on the planet, containing approximately 15-17% of the world’s plant species and nearly 20% of its bird diversity (1,666). For both groups, the endemism is astonishingly over 40%.

Significant portions of these mountain forests are cloud forests. According to the United Nation’s World Conservation Center2 , cloud forests comprise only 2.5% of the world’s tropical forests, approximately 25% are found in the Andean region. For these reasons, they are considered to be on top of the list of threatened ecosystems. Furthermore, they play an oversized role in the protection of water resources – with several of the large world’s cities relying on them for their drinking water.

Edward O. Wilson has this to say about the these magnificent and threatened forests:

The extraordinary value of the Ecuadorian western forests, including the largest remaining remnants that include Intag, is well known to biologist around the world and often cited in the scientific literature… I am personally even more impressed by the uniqueness and the rich biodiversity in the remnant forests, and the potential value of their flora and fauna to Ecuador and the rest of the world. I have believed in the past, and am more convinced now, that these endangered habitats should be given the very high priority in conservation worldwide…”

(personal letter to DECOIN’s Carlos Zorrilla, 10/10/1997)To see his full letter click here

It is precisely in this region that an industrial copper mining project threatens to destroy thousands of hectares of primary forests harboring dozens of threatened mammal and bird species. The preliminary environmental impact study completed for this project, and based on only a small portion of the copper ore found, called for major environmental and social impacts; including : Relocation of four communities; massive deforestation; impacts to hundreds of species of mammals and birds facing extinction, and to the biodiverse Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve; and contamination of rivers and streams with heavy metals.