Forest CoverTotal forest area: 10,853,000 ha % of land area: 39.2%
Primary forest cover: 4,794,000 ha % of land area: 17.3% % total forest area: 44.2%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -197,600 ha Annual deforestation rate: -1.7% Change in defor. rate since '90s: 16.7% Total forest loss since 1990: -2,964,000 ha Total forest loss since 1990:-21.5%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Forest ClassificationPublic: 77.1% Private: n/a Other: 22.9% Use Production: 1.5% Protection: 21.5% Conservation: 44.2% Social services: n/a Multiple purpose: 18.9% None or unknown: 13.8
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 10,853,000 ha Primary: 4,794,000 ha Modified natural: 5,895,000 ha Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: 164,000 ha Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: 164,000 ha % of total forest cover: 1.5% Annual change rate (00-05): 560,000 ha
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: n/a M t Below-ground biomass: n/a M t
Area annually affected byFire: n/a Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 1,000 Critically endangered: 240 Endangered: 669 Vulnerable: 923
Despite its small area, Ecuador is the eighth most biodiverse country on Earth. Ecuador has almost 20,000 species of plants, over 1,500 species of birds, more than 840 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 341 species of mammals.
Ecuador also has the distinction of having the highest deforestation rate and worst environmental record in South America. Oil exploration, logging, and road building have had a disastrous impact on Ecuador's primary rainforests, which now cover less than 15 percent of the country's land mass.
Logging in Western Ecuador (coastal and low Andean) areas is responsible for the loss of 99 percent of the country's rainforest in this region. Historically, after an area has been selectively logged and abandoned, settlers follow logging roads and set up homesteads, slashing and burning the surrounding forest for agriculture and cattle pasture.
The impact of oil exploitation in Eastern Ecuador is now notorious as a result of a long-running $6 billion lawsuit involving 30,000 Amazon forest dwellers and Texaco, once one of the world's largest energy companies but now part of Chevron. In the 25 years that Texaco operated in the Oriente region of the Western Amazon, the oil company spilled 17 million gallons of crude oil into the local river systems (by comparison, the Exxon Valdez only spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska in 1989), dumped more than 20 billion gallons of toxic drilling by-products, and cleared forest for access roads, exploration, and production activities. As of the mid-1990s, lands once used for farming lay bare and hundreds of waste pits remained. In August 1992, a pipeline rupture caused a 275,000-gallon (1.04 million L) spill which caused the Rio Napo to run black for days and forced downstream Peru and Brazil to declare national states of emergency for the affected regions.
Originally it appeared that Texaco might pull out of the Oriente without reparations to the people whose environment was so seriously degraded, but widespread protests by indigenous peoples, environmentalists, and human-rights organizations forced Texaco into negotiations. Texaco projected its clean-up costs at a moderate US$5-10 million.
In response to the insufficient clean-up gesture, along with widespread environmental degradation and serious health problems among local peoples, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Texaco in the United States on behalf of 30,000 people affected by the oil company's operations. Previous suits against Texaco filed in Ecuador failed due to Texaco's political influence with the Ecuadorian judiciary.
By the close of 2005 the case against parent company Chevron was still being fought in U.S. courts and was beginning to become an issue for shareholders in the oil company. Facing a six- billion dollar liability, the company has also seen shareholders file three new resolutions asking Chevron's management to take various steps to protect human rights, the environment, and shareholder interests. The United Nations has also gotten involved in the case, calling on the Ecuadorian government to guarantee the safety of lawyers and leaders involved in the lawsuit after a series of threats.
According to an update by Amazon Watch, an organization tracking the suit, the case is not going particularly well for Chevron:
The escalating shareholder concern comes as Chevron's defense faces significant hurdles in the lawsuit in Ecuador. Water and soil samples submitted to the court by both the plaintiffs and Chevron from all 18 well sites inspected by the court overwhelmingly have shown illegal levels of toxic contamination, often by orders of magnitude.
The legal case is the first time a transnational oil company has been subjected to legal jurisdiction in the courts of a developing nation for massive environmental damage. A New York court has already confirmed the Ecuadorian ruling will be enforceable in the United States, where Chevron's operations are based. . .
. . . Citing a June 2004 Supreme Court ruling upholding the 1789 Alien Torts Act, the resolution also warns Chevron executives that, in "a post-Enron environment," they could be found personally liable in a U.S. court for human rights abuses committed abroad, such as those in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Excerpt from a December Amazon Watch news release
Despite the complicit role of the Ecuadorian government in the environmental degradation from oil operations, the government has taken some steps to conserve what remains of Ecuador's wildlands. According to the ITTO, the government subsidizes the establishment of plantations of native species in danger of extinction and establishment of protection forests. This incentive could prove promising since more than 50 percent of Ecuador's land is degraded and suitable for reforestation. As of 2004, 15.6 percent of Ecuador was officially protected, though timber harvesting and other forest exploitation in protected areas is not uncommon.
In total, between 1990 and 2005, Ecuador lost about 21.5 percent of its forest cover. The deforestation rate has increased by 17 percent since the close of the 1990s.
62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
(05/19/2015) Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict
(05/18/2015) China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.
What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?
(05/15/2015) Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.
Borneo's rainforest may get high-tech 3D scan to boost conservation
(05/04/2015) Conservation efforts in Borneo's embattled rainforest may get a boost with the launch of the newest version of an advanced airplane-based monitoring and assessment system. On Friday, the Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.
Recently discovered 'punkrocker' frog changes skin texture in minutes
(04/17/2015) In 2006, two scientists discovered a tiny new frog species in the Reserva Las Gralarias, a nature reserve in north-central Ecuador. They took its photograph and nicknamed it the "punkrocker" frog because of spine-like projections coming out of its skin. For the next three years, they did not find the punkrocker again. But when they did re-discover it in 2009, the team found that the punkrocker had more tricks up its sleeve.
Study finds abandoned pasture is 'a huge resource that is not being harnessed'
(04/09/2015) As tropical forests around the world are cleared for human development, scientists and conservationists are trying to find ways to both stem their loss and reclaim areas already deforested. In a recent study, researchers investigated restoration of abandoned agricultural land in Ecuador, finding that planting trees and even re-establishing pasture may help limit conversion of more forest to farmland.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Critically endangered bird gets new addition to its reserve
(02/24/2015) An unassuming brown bird, tiny both in body and population size, hovers on the edge of extinction as its habitat is cleared for agriculture and its nests are parasitized. In response, conservation organizations created a reserve expressly for the species' preservation in the late 1990s; now that reserve is being expanded to try to push one of the world's most endangered bird species farther back from the precipice.
Mining activist released after being charged with terrorism, rebellion in Ecuador
(02/11/2015) Yesterday, mining and environmental activist, Javier Ramírez, walked out of an Ecuadorian courtroom with his freedom. Ramírez, who has long fought against a massive state-owned massive copper mine in the cloud forest village of Junin, was arrested in April last year and subsequently charged with rebellion, sabotage, and terrorism among other thing.
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Scientists rediscover endangered Andean toad in Ecuador
(01/30/2015) In 1970 researchers uncovered the Tandayapa Andean toad, previously unknown to science, in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador. Given that only a single individual was discovered, even after further exploration in the following years, the toad was soon presumed to be extinct. Forty-two years later, however, a research team rediscovered the species in Manduriacu, Ecuador.
Financial pledges for REDD+ slow to be disbursed, finds report
(01/27/2015) Only a small fraction of the $7.3 billion pledged under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program has actually been disbursed, find a new report that tracked REDD+ finance in seven countries. The report, published by Forest Trends, analyzed REDD+ financial flows between 2009 and 2012 in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Vietnam
Amazon tribe attacks oilfield in Ecuador
(01/15/2015) Indigenous leaders are calling for the release of six tribesmen implicated in a raid on an oilfield in Eastern Ecuador that left six soldiers injured, reports Andina and El Comercio.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015
(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here's a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
2014: the year in rainforests
(12/30/2014) 2014 could be classified as 'The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment'. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit
(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.
Indigenous leader murdered before he could attend Climate Summit
(12/08/2014) Days before José Isidro Tendetza Antún was supposed to travel to the UN Climate Summit in Lima to publicly file a complaint against a massive mining operation, he went missing. Now, the Guardian reports that the body of the Shuar indigenous leader has been found, bound and buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Zamora River.
Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020
(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.
How an indigenous community in Ecuador stood up to big oil - and won
(12/05/2014) The Sarayaku, a Kichwa indigenous people numbering 1,200 from the Ecuadorian Amazon, won a historic court case in 2012. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the government of Ecuador must publicly apologize, consult with, and recompense the Sarayaku for allowing oil exploration by Argentine Compañia General de Combustibles on their territory without prior consultation
Conservationists propose Dracula Reserve in Ecuador
(10/24/2014) Deep in the dark, cool forests of Ecuador and Colombia live strange and mysterious organisms. Some inhabit the trees and others stay to the ground, and many are threatened by human encroachment. Because of this threat, Rainforest Trust has launched a Halloween fundraising drive to help pay for the creation of the Dracula Reserve--named for its dramatic inhabitant, the Dracula orchid.
'A remarkable conservation achievement': Ecuador reserve expands as forest disappears
(10/09/2014) A strip of rainforest running along the northwestern Ecuadorian coast and up through Colombia is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Yet, less than 10 percent of Ecuador’s portion remains intact, with more forest lost every year to human development. But a little more has been saved for now, with 500 hectares added to an area reserve.
Diverse, deceptive, declining: orchids threatened by deforestation in South America
(09/26/2014) Pushing past a thick fern leaf, Crain stopped short, overcome by joy. As he broke into dance, his assistant peered curiously at the tiny lentil-shaped fruit dangling from a stem, and resolutely decided Crain was mad. After more than two years studying a rare Puerto Rican endemic orchid species, Crain had finally found his first specimen bearing fruit.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.