Factors affecting biodiversity
Most of the megadiverse countries in the world are concentrated around the terrestrial Ecuador , of which in South America there are five: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The proximity to Ecuador makes the temperature in this region stable throughout the year, thus reducing the environmental disturbances suffered by the species. This is evident in both the Amazon and the Andean highlands.
The gradients in high favor the establishment of different species, so the Andes promotes adaptive processes related to speciation. In the case of Ecuador, the mountain range crosses the country, establishing a geographical barrier between diverse populations of species. This is a key factor for the appearance of new species.
The ocean currents are another important factor in biodiversity, being two those affecting the coasts of Ecuador: the warm Panama current and the cold current of Humboldt . This increases the variety of climates present on the coast, which favors speciation in different coastal regions of the country.
Regions with great diversity
The Galapagos archipelago is perhaps one of the most famous ecosystems in Ecuador, known for hosting, among other species, the giant Galapagos tortoises, marine iguanas and finches that inspired Charles Darwin to elaborate his theory on the evolution of the species. The adaptation of the species on the different islands is a magnificent example of the speciation phenomenon referred to above.
These islands, of volcanic origin, are located 900 km off the coast of Ecuador. They have been declared a natural park and are home to some 9,000 species, many of which are endemic (which means that they do not exist elsewhere). Of these, several are in danger of extinction, such as marine iguanas, giant tortoises, the blue-footed booby, the Galapagos penguin, green turtles or sea lions.
The coastal region of Ecuador contains several environments with great biodiversity, such as the Guayas basin (the largest hydrographic basin in the Pacific located in South America, with an area of 53,300 km 2 ) or the Esmeraldas River, with a length of 320 km. These rivers are home to a large number of species, both in their waters and in the forests that grow on their banks.
The Andean region or Sierra extends through the center of the country, with an average altitude that is around 300 to 400 meters above sea level. Species that live in these conditions are either migratory or cold-adapted. Some representative species of this region are the Andean condor, the didactic sloth, the páramo wolf or the puma.
Finally, east of the Andes is the Amazon . Although Ecuador only owns 1.6% of the entire Amazon basin, it represents 30% of the national territory. It is a humid region with constant rainfall throughout the year. An endangered species found in this region is the pink dolphin or Amazon dolphin. It is the largest river dolphin in the world, and can reach a length of more than two meters. Pollution and destruction of the Amazon rainforest are the factors that threaten this species of river mammal. Other representative species of this region are the anaconda, the panther or the harpy eagle.
Threats to the biodiversity of Ecuador
The deforestation is the main threat to biodiversity in Ecuador, it leads to the loss and fragmentation of habitats. Between 2000 and 2021, some 66,000 hectares of forest mass were lost per year, mainly due to changes in land use, as what used to be forests were transformed into pasture or cultivated areas.
The destruction of habitats also negatively affects the fauna that lives in them, especially those species that inhabit forest ecosystems. The unsustainable fishing poaching and trafficking of wild animals are factors that particularly harm the threatened fauna.
Other factors that must be taken into account and for which solutions must be sought are the introduction of invasive alien species into natural ecosystems, their pollution and alterations due to climate change. Although the latter is a problem whose solutions cannot be pursued by a single country, but rather requires a global commitment to mitigate its effects.