Ecuador maintains a protected area system that includes 50 reserves that contain a wide range of globally important wildlife species. However, this system provides only partial protection to wildlife because individual protected areas are too small to protect key wildlife species with large habitat requirements. Additionally, protected areas can be internally fragmented and disconnected across the broader landscape, with negative implications for population viability.
WCS Ecuador, through a project funded by GEF, is supporting MAE to implement a paradigm shift in the traditional management of protected areas from the existing site-focused approach. Instead, we are advocating a landscape-wide approach that improves habitat and connectivity for wildlife, increases the capacity of indigenous communities to use wildlife in a sustainable manner, reduces conflicts with large carnivores, and enhances coordinated institutional action for reducing illegal hunting and wildlife trade through the implementation of more effective control systems.
This project focuses on five landscapes and, within those, seven target protected areas: (1) El Ángel Ecological Reserve; (2) Antisana E.R.; (3) Cofán Bermejo E.R.; (4) Cotacachi Cayapas E.R.; (5) El Pambilar Wildlife Refuge; (6) Podocarpus National Park; (7) Llanganates N.P.; and two wildlife corridors: (1) Cuyabeno – Yasuní corridor; and (2) Llanganates – Sangay corridor. Criteria for prioritization of target protected areas include size and connectivity levels, presence of threatened species, threat levels produced by human activities, endemism levels of wildlife species, ecosystem representativeness, and ecosystem diversity. The five target landscapes also include a number of other protected areas: Sumaco – Napo Galeras, Cotopaxi, Yacuri and Cayambe Coca National Parks, and Cerro Plateado Biological Reserve, with which the project does not work directly, but which benefit indirectly from the landscape-level connectivity promoted by the project.
Additionally, this project is committed to the conservation of a suite of 18 globally threatened wildlife taxa (Table 1). These species have been selected on the basis of the following criteria:
1. Home Range. The ranges of the selected species were categorized on the basis of the home range of individuals, their dispersal distances, and the size of the area to maintain and ecologically functional population. These species require connectivity between patches of optimal habitat in landscapes with protected areas.
2. Vulnerability. Species received ratings according to their IUCN threat categories: Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) or Vulnerable (VU), Near Threatened (NT), Data Deficient (DD), Least Concern (LC), and Not Evaluated (NE).
3. Habitat Heterogeneity. Although range size is important, some species also require a variety of different habitats for feeding, reproduction and dispersal. The level of connectivity between habitats is also important.
4. Ecological Funcionality. Some species have significant effects on the structure and function of ecosystems, and their conservation therefore guarantees the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and communities. For example, large predators such as jaguars control the composition and abundance of prey, primates disperse seeds and ungulates such as peccaries have profound effects on the regeneration of canopy species and the structure of the understory.
5. Socioeconomic Importance. Species with socioeconomic importance (whether positive, for example in cultural terms, as food for local people or as attractions for tourism, or negative, through damaging crops, transmitting diseases of competing for limited resources) were prioritized.
GEF project target species
|Scientific name ||Common name ||IUCN status|
| Ara ambigua|| Great green macaw|| EN|
| Arapaima gigas|| Paiche, pirarucú|| DD|
| Ateles belzebuth|| White-bellied spider monkey|| EN|
| Ateles fusciceps|| Black-headed spider monkey|| CR|
| Lagothrix spp.|| Woolly monkey|| VU|
| Lycalopex culpaeus|| Andean fox|| LC|
| Melanosuchus niger|| Black caiman|| CD|
| Panthera onca centralis|| Jaguar|| NT|
| Panthera onca onca|| Jaguar|| NT|
| Penelope barbata|| Bearded guan|| VU|
| Puma concolor|| Puma|| LC|
| Tapirus pinchaque|| Mountain tapir|| EN|
| Tapirus terrestris|| Lowland tapir || VU|
| Tayassu pecari aequatoris|| White-lipped peccary|| NT|
| Tayassu pecari pecari|| White-lipped peccary|| NT|
| Theristicus melanopis|| Black-faced ibis|| LC|
| Tremarctos ornatus|| Spectacled bear|| VU|
| Trichechus inunguis|| Amazonian manatee|| VU|
| Vultur gryphus|| Andean Condor|| NT|
The final list of species represents a set of complementary “landscape species” with (a) extensive and heterogeneous habitat requirements; (b) which produce significant ecological impacts on the structure and function of the ecosystems that they inhabit; and (c) which have temporal and spatial habitat requirements which make them particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of human activities.