An approximately 100 year old Galapagos giant tortoise, Charles-Darwin research station on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Environment Extraordinary biodiversity

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth. The mangrove swamps along the coastline, the Andean mountain forests, the tropical rainforests of the Amazon region and the Galápagos Islands are home to many animal and plant species not found anywhere else in the world.

Compared with other countries, an exceptionally large part of Ecuador is given over to nature reserves. About 20 per cent of the country's land area and about 12 per cent of its marine area has been designated as protected areas. However, the authorities are often not yet sufficiently able to enforce environmental laws or effectively monitor the protected areas.

Reduction of deforestation

Nature has been enshrined in Ecuador's constitution as an independent entity with its own legal rights, and there are comprehensive national programmes – progressive by regional standards – such as the Socio Bosque programme, which provides for incentive payments to the local population in return for preserving forested areas.

In the last few years, the national deforestation rate has been reduced significantly, which has not only made a major contribution towards global climate change mitigation but also helped to preserve habitats for plants and animals and living environments for local – often indigenous – communities. However, the country's diverse natural areas continue to be under threat, especially from expanding economic activities, specifically agribusiness, livestock farming, oil extraction and mining.