Photo: Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Credit Leonardo Merco / Shutterstock.

Nangaritza Valley, situated in south-eastern Ecuador, is a vital biological corridor linking the Andean cloud forests of Podocarpus National Park to the west with the lowland Amazonian rainforests to the east in Peru. Recognized for its remarkable biodiversity, the valley’s foothill forests boast some of the highest levels of plant diversity globally, alongside a rich variety of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds.  

A 2009 Rapid Assessment conducted by Conservation International uncovered significant biodiversity within the Nangaritza Valley. New amphibian populations and four frog species previously unknown to science were discovered. The study also identified more than 20 new species of insects, highlighting the region’s biological richness. 

Despite its importance, the Nangaritza Valley faces severe threats. Deforestation is occurring at a rate of 1-2% annually due to agricultural expansion and gold mining. The construction of a new highway is expected to escalate these threats, further fragmenting the landscape.   

If left unchecked, forecasts indicate that deforestation rates in Nangaritza are likely to continue increasing. This poses a significant threat to the valley’s exceptional biodiversity, including endangered bird species such as the Orange-throated Tanager, Military Macaw, and White-cheeked Parakeet, as well as mammals such as the Jaguar, Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, and Ocelot.  

Beyond its ecological significance, the area also holds profound cultural value as the territory of the Shuar indigenous people, who maintain local traditions and language.  Several traditional territories crucial to the Shuar lie wholly or partially within the Nangaritza Valley. Despite the establishment of several protected indigenous reserves in the region, the valley’s riverine areas remain inadequately protected, leaving them vulnerable to ongoing threats. 

In response, a five-year initiative by World Land Trust has been launched to expand the Maycú Reserve by acquiring 1,235 acres (500 hectares) of land. This expansion aims to enhance connectivity with indigenous lands across the lower Nangaritza Valley and restore degraded habitats through extensive reforestation efforts. 

The project represents a critical opportunity to achieve and solidify conservation objectives that World Land Trust (WLT) has supported for over a decade in collaboration with their in-country partner, Naturaleza Y Cultura Ecuador (NCE). Funding for this expansion will be provided through the Carbon Balanced program, generating an estimated annual climate benefit of 15,368 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. 

The Nangaritza Valley project is a crucial endeavor aimed at preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage while mitigating climate change impacts. By expanding protected areas and promoting sustainable land use practices, the project seeks to safeguard the valley’s ecological and cultural wealth for future generations.  

This initiative underscores the value of the Carbon Balanced Paper program in global conservation efforts that benefit biodiversity and climate change.

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Photo: Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callydrias). Credit: Swallowtail Garden Seeds.