Conservation Opportunity

Conservation efforts are now needed to save the greatest biodiversity of the western Amazon rainforest.

Every 20,000 to 50,000 years the Andes mountains fill with glaciers and cold weather drives wildlife down into the Amazon as they seek warmer temperatures. (See diagram below on the left.) During interglacial periods, increasingly warm weather drives many species back up into the Andes as they seek a cooler climate. This is happening now. This relationship between the Amazon and the Andes created the highest ecological diversity on the planet.

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In the last 50 years this ancient wildlife migration pattern has been blocked by a 2,000 mile unplanned human development wall at the base of the Andes. This threatens the extinction of entire forest communities as temperature-sensitive species attempt and fail to migrate to higher ground as climate change increases temperatures.

However, the AAC has identified a critical break in this swath of development. A largely intact potential bio-corridor still exists that runs from the 1.25 million-acre Sangay National Park in the Andes down into the Ecuadorian Amazon. In the satellite map below is the development wall, in white, stretching from Peru to the Caribbean. The red arrow points to the bio-corridor opportunity.

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Base map by Ecology and Evolution

This close up of Ecuador shows the development wall in grey. The hole in the development wall is shown in the Huamboya Pablo Sexto area. This is one of the last opportunities to maintain the ancient migration patterns that created the region's legendary biodiversity. The white lines show two opportunities for globally important wildlife migration corridors, now known as bio-corridors. Conservation in these areas would have the highest payback in terms of biodiversity-saved conservation dollars in the western Amazon.

Base map by Ecology and Evolution

The diagram below shows the five indigenous nations located in the region near the hole in the development wall. It is the Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Sapara and Kichwa nations that will have to collaborate their conservation efforts to succeed in maintaining the region's biodiversity. None of the indigenous territories alone is large enough to succeed. AAC is actively collaborating on conservation plans for the Shuar and Shiwiar territories and in discussions with the Sapara the Kichwa. Creating a 400-kilometer-long, 5 nation bio-corridor complex to connect Yasuni and Sangay National Parks with the giant Santiago Comainas Bio-corridor in Peru would create a reserve with 10,000 times the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. The overall biodiversity that could be maintained between the Amazon flatlands and the 17,000 foot peaks of the Andes would create a sustainable international eco-tourism attraction that would help wean Ecuador off its dependence on mining and oil.

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Base map by Ecology and Evolution

The photo below shows what the proposed bio-corridor looks like as it exits Sangay National Park. The wildly beautiful Palora river valley, which sees frequent large-scale flooding, creates a rich mosaic of forest types. This would be the start of the 400 kilometer wildlife migration complex. This valley has seen millions of years of mass migrations of a wide range of mammals, insects, amphibians and birds. Our goal is to unify the local indigenous nations around the protection of the ecosystems that they depend on and that form the foundation of their cultures. Re-establishing these migrations and maintaining the ancient connection between the Andes mountains and the Amazon basin is the most important ecological goal that Ecuador could ever hope to achieve and it aligns well with Ecuador’s global reputation for biodiversity.

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Base map by Ecology and Evolution

The collaboration of Andes Amazon Conservancy with local indigenous nations in Land Use Planning is making this great vision for a globally significant bio-corridor complex a reality. The critical start of the 5 nation biocorridor is in Shuar territor.

See the details of The Shuar Territory Land Use Planning project here.