Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Ecosystem Services in Yanacocha, Ecuador

Site location and ownership

The Yanacocha reserve protects some 1,080 ha of elfin Polylepis woodland on the slopes of Volcan Pichincha, only 15 km from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, and is owned and managed by Fundación Jocotoco.

Biodiversity value

Yanacocha is the most important known site for the Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestris), a Critically Endangered (classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) hummingbird and emblem of the capital Quito. Another three bird species of global conservation concern are found within the reserve’s boundaries and both Puma (Puma concolor) and Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) (Vulnerable) have been recorded.

Camera traps have captured images of larger species including Mountain Wolf (Lycalopex culpaeus) and Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) (Near Threatened), the latter being the national bird of Ecuador and one of the largest flying birds in the world.

The reserve also supports an exceptional montane flora including elfin Polylepis forests, found in patches over these mountain slopes, and which are a rare habitat type found only in the Andes region. Polylepis belongs to the rose family and is a short, dense tree with a gnarled appearance.

Conservation action

The WLT has supported work at Yanacocha through both its Carbon Balanced and Reforestation programmes, described below.

Carbon Balanced Programme

At 3,500 m altitude, Yanacocha is the highest WLT Carbon Balanced programme site. The main project site, established here in 2007, is a 27 ha land parcel, which includes 6 ha of forest included within the land purchase but protected by a ravine, and thus excluded from calculations of CO2 safeguarded through the Carbon Balanced programme.

Of the 27ha main site some 11 ha are open pasture and are being replanted with a mix of native species sourced from local family-run nurseries, including Polylepis incana. The remainder is degraded woodland that is now protected and being allowed to recover, assisted by selective enrichment planting. Despite the altitude, carbon sequestration rates are high, with reforestation activities resulting in the absorption of 4,500 tonnes of atmospheric CO2. Protecting the remaining degraded woodland (REDD) and the rehabilitation of this habitat will offset a further 1,700 and 4,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, respectively, over the 20 year carbon accounting period for this project.

Carbon Balanced activities at Yanacocha also include a second site established through the support of specialist bird tour operator Bird Holidays. Committed to both biodiversity conservation and the principles of environmentally responsible travel, Bird Holidays have donated sufficient funding to the Carbon Balanced programme to offset the organisation’s predicted carbon footprint for a period of 20 years.

WLT’s Reforestation Programme

Tree planting took place at Yanacocha between 2008 and 2010 during which time 54,000 trees were planted . Monitoring is on-going and an enhanced monitoring programme has been put in place by Fundación Jocotoco during 2011.

Community benefits

Yanacocha has already established itself as a very popular place to visit, situated just a 45 minute drive from Quito. Visitors experience spectacular views of the upper reaches of Pichincha and trails bring close views of hummingbirds at trail-side feeders.

On June 23rd 2005 the Mayor and Council of the City of Quito announced that the Black-breasted Puffleg, for which the reserve is renowned, had been adopted as the Emblem of Quito. The reserve is now formally recognised as a city heritage site, demonstrating the esteem with which it is held amongst local people.

The reserve also sits within a catchment supplying water to Quito and serves to ensure a reliable supply of clean water to the city. Any further forest loss, prevented within the reserve but not adjacent areas, could cause serious water supply and quality problems for the city.

The future

Fundación Jocotoco continues to explore opportunities to expand and consolidate its Yanacocha reserve with WLT support.

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