A landscape representing eastern Ecuador’s tropical lowland ecosystems

About the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve

The 2.7 million hectare Yasuní Biosphere Reserve (YBR), designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989, is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots on the planet and also one of the last tracts of pristine, continuous tropical forests in eastern Ecuador. The YBR is strategically located at the intersection of the Amazon, the Andes, and the equator. At its core, the YBR contains the 1 million hectare Yasuní National Park (YNP). This tropical moist forest system is one of the world’s biodiversity jewels, containing some 1,300 tree species, 610 bird species, more than 268 fish species, and at least 200 species of mammals, including lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari), jaguars (Panthera onca), bush dogs (Speothos venaticus), short-eared dogs (Atelocynus microtis), and 13 species of primates.

The YBR is also known for its exceptional cultural value. It is home to the last representatives of the Waodani ethnic group and two indigenous groups in voluntary isolation for whom the 700,000 hectare Tagaeri–Taromenane Intangible Zone was declared. This landscape is also home to Kichwa, Shuar and non-indigenous colonist communities. Together, the YNP, the Waodani Ethnic Reserve, and the Tagaeri–Taromenane Intangible Zone form the YBR.

Despite the cultural and biological importance of the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, few institutions are directly involved in its long-term conservation. The area is highly vulnerable to the impacts of development activities such as oil exploitation and associated road construction and pollution, as well as uncontrolled illegal activities such as logging, hunting, and wildlife trafficking. Furthermore, indirect threats such as the lack of a clear legal framework, weak governance, and limited technical and administrative capabilities of indigenous organizations, increase the vulnerability of the YBR.


Conservation Challenges

While the local dynamics are constantly changing, the direct threats to biodiversity in Yasuní include:

Illegal commercial hunting
for wild meat, which leads to the reduction - and in some cases the eradication - of  wildlife species.

Advancement of agriculture and improper or illegal extraction of timber; both major causes of deforestation.

Oil exploration and exploitation activities, which cause habitat destruction as well as water and soil pollution.

Road construction, which contributes to illegal timber extraction, illegal wildlife trade, population growth, and illegal settlement within protected areas.

Climate change, which affects the distribution of species and threatens to increase in the frequency and magnitude of floods, droughts and diseases.