Ecoregion: Eastern Cordilla Real Montane Forest
Key Species: Jaguar, Orange-throated Tanager, Mountain Tapir, Spectacled Bear, Ocelot, Puma, White-necked Parakeet
Known locally as the Maycu Reserve, Nangaritza protects foothill rainforest of the Nangaritza Valley, Zamora Chinchipe province, connecting the Andes and the Amazon. This highly biodiverse watershed falls within the Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve where you will find some of the highest levels of plant diversity in the world.
Since 2012, World Land Trust (WLT) has been working steadily with NCEcuador to fund the purchase and protection of land within the River Nangaritza valley, a complex mosaic of ecosystems including Amazonian lowlands, Andean foothills and Sandstone plateaus similar to Venezuelans “Tepuys” (table top mountains).
NCE works with local staff who have built strong relationships with the local communities and land owners, putting them in the best place to prioritise land for purchase. Land purchase funded by both WLT’s Buy an Acre and Carbon Balanced programmes forms one part of a wider body of work by NCE to create a protected network of private, municipal and indigenous reserves.
To the north of the Nangaritza Valley, nearly all the other areas of Amazonian foothill forests have been degraded as a result of agriculture and cattle grazing, logging and illegal mining. The ever-present threat of a new road through the area is only increasing these pressures on the remaining forest and driving up the price of land. This is why NCE and WLT are working in partnership to secure and connect gaps to expand this network of protected areas.
This isolated transition zone between the Andes and Amazon means Nangaritza has very high endemism with 40% of plant species unique to the region. The valley also has an abundance of amphibian and reptile species, many endemic, and many still undiscovered due to the remoteness of the region.
A Conservation International Rapid Assessment in 2009 found new amphibian populations such as Atelopus sp. and four frog species new to science; Dendrobates sp nov., Bolitoglossa sp., Nymphargus sp and Pristimantis minimus – a minute frog which is now the smallest in its genus. The study also found more than 20 new insect species, all new to science.
Nangaritza contains spectacular biodiversity including threatened bird species such as the Orange-throated Tanager, Military Macaw and White-cheeked Parakeet, as well as mammals including the Jaguar, Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir and Ocelot.
The valley’s forests also provide a significant carbon reservoir, with studies finding values of 170 tonnes of sequestered carbon per hectare (MtC/ha) and estimating that this may increase to as much as 250 MtC in mature forests and more developed soils. If cleared however, this reservoir of stored carbon would be released back into the atmosphere. The Carbon Balanced Programme funds the protection and expansion of the Nangaritza reserve and ensures this carbon remains stored in the forest. Where areas of forest are already degraded, protection allows the forest to recover naturally or through the planting of native tree species, which as they grow, take in CO2 from the atmosphere and incorporate it into this reservoir.
The indigenous Shuar people have lived in the Nangaritza Valley for generations but the region has also been colonised by farming communities over this time. NCE works closely with both the Shuar and a number of agricultural associations on initiatives to ensure protection of the forests. One key achievement has been to assist the Shuar in claiming Socio Bosque payments from the Government. These Payments for Environmental Services (PES) provide income for landowners who ensure their forest remains protected. NCE has also helped to create reserves with both the Shuar and communities of the region adding to the patchwork of reserves protecting the Nangaritza Valley.