In general, alpha diversity of tree species, as well as general height of the forest canopy, decreases with increasing elevation on both sides of the Andes.
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Density and diversity of vascular epiphytes in the lower montane rain forest zone are undoubtedly higher than in the lowland rain forest, but quantitative data are lacking. Common canopy tree species on the western slopes include Ruagea glabra , R.
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For the eastern Andean slopes, an overview of the flora and vegetation in the Sumaco volcano region of Napo province is described in Neill and Palacios Common canopy tree species in this vegetation type include the tall palm Dictyocarym lamarckianum as well as Erythrina edulis , Clethra fagifolia , Hyeronima macrocarpa , Ruagea glabra , Dacryodes cupularis , Metteniusa tessmannii , Meriania hexamera , and Ocotea javitensis. Floristically distinct facies of lower montane rain forest occur on the non-volcanic substrates of the "third cordillera," east of the main Andean chain.
All three ranges are, as yet, poorly known botanically, but each supports some endemic taxa. Cloud forest Harling also uses the term "upper montane rain forest" for this vegetation type, which is in agreement with the terminology for Neotropical montane forests suggested by Webster The Spanish term ceja andina "eyebrows of the mountains" is often used for the "elfin forest" near the upper limit of forest.
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With increase in altitude, the height of the tree canopy becomes lower, the trees are more twisted and gnarled and tend to be multiple-stemmed, and alpha diversity of trees also decreases Valencia et al. Tree species richness was much higher in the two southern plots 75 and 90 species than in the northern plots 32 and 39 species ; the northern sites may have been subjected to more recent disturbance.
Structural characteristics, including density, canopy height, and basal area, differed considerably among the four study sites. Characterization of forest types above 2, m elevation was carried out at sites throughout the Ecuadorian Andes, with multivariate analysis of tree species composition and frequency Fehse et al.
Montane forests in many areas of the tropical Andes occur on very steep slopes that are geologically unstable, being subjected to frequent landslides caused by earthquakes and other natural disturbances. Stern described vegetation succession on earthquake-triggered landslide sites in the eastern Ecuadorian Andes.
North Ecuadorian grassland and quebrada vegetation This vegetation type occurs in the densely populated inter-Andean valleys, where the original vegetation was almost entirely removed during past centuries and replaced by agricultural plots and pastures. Remnants of the original vegetation are now found only in steep ravines quebradas in Spanish and other agriculturally marginal sites. These remnants are composed mostly of shrubs and small trees, often spiny, such as Barnadesia arborea , Mimosa quitensis , Hesperomeles obtusifolia , and Duranta triacantha.
The landscapes of the inter-Andean valleys today are dominated visually by stands of Eucalyptus globulus , introduced from Australia in the s, which line roadsides and field borders and are also grown in silvicultural plots for timber production. In some areas there are large stands of Pinus radiata and Pinus patula , introduced from California and Mexico, respectively, around the turn of the 20 th century.
A study of the ecologial impact of the pine plantations indicated that on moister sites, in the northern valleys, the planting of pines results in reduced soil organic matter and moisture, but in drier sites, in valleys of the central Ecuadorian Andes, where pines were planted on eroded soils, the plantations protect the sites from further degradation Hofstede, Large areas of the inter-Andean valleys are dedicated to grazing by dairy cattle, and the introduced African grass Pennisetum clandestinum , among other introduced grasses, predominates in most of the pastures.
Historical information, including municipal records and traveler's descriptions, allows a partial reconstruction of the original vegetation of the inter-Andean valleys at the time of European contact during the 16 th century, and the changes that have occurred since then Hidalgo, For example, the upper Guayllabamba River basin south and southeast of Quito present-day Machachi area and Valle de los Chillos was covered with a tall, dense montane forest at least until the 18 th century.
The floristic composition of these forests is not known, but probably included such canopy tree species as Cedrela montana, Juglans neotropica, Symplocos quitensis, Myrcianthes rhopaloides , and Inga insignis , which are still found in the area as isolated trees. The protected forest of Pasochoa volcano, south of Quito, is one of few remnants of inter-Andean forests. The valley floor of the upper basin of the Mira river in Carchi province was densely forested well into the 20 th century; a remnant forest patch near San Gabriel, dominated by Myrcianthes rhopaloides , is still standing.
South Ecuadorian shrub vegetation This vegetation type, like the previous one, has been profoundly altered by human activities. This montane scrub occurs in the inter-Andean valleys of southern Ecuador between 2, and 3, m elevation. The climate is generally drier than in the northern valleys, and the soil, derived from Tertiary volcanic substrate rather than Quaternary volcanic ash as in the north, is more highly weathered, poorer in nutrients, and in many areas has been heavily eroded.
The vegetation is characterized by a discontinuous cover of shrubs and small trees, generally with bare ground between the woody plants. Common species include Oreocallis grandiflora , Lomatia hirsuta , Hypericum laricifolium , Bejaria aestuans , and Cantua quercifolia. Some species that are endemic to this vegetation type, especially Streptosolen jamesonii and Chionanthus pubescens , are frequently cultivated in the cities of northern Ecuador as ornamentals.
Quantitative ecological studies of this vegetation type do not exist. It is not clear, from the information available, whether the original vegetation of the southern valleys and slopes was a closed-canopy forest as in the northern valleys, or if the open shrubby vegetation is in fact the "climatic climax" for these areas.
Dry scrub vegetation of southernmost Ecuador This vegetation type is confined to the arid intermontane valley of the Chinchipe river, in southern Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe provinces. The vegetation is dominated by scattered low, thorny shrubs or small trees such as Acacia macracantha , Anadenanthera colubrina , Cercidium praecox , and Prosopis juliflora , as well as some columnar cacti and Opuntia.
Inter-Andean desert and semi-desert This vegetation type occurs in the lower portions of most inter-Andean valleys, where precipitation is reduced due to the "rain shadow" effects of the surrounding high cordilleras. Annual rainfall in these deep, arid valleys is generally less than mm Figure 1. In most sites, the vegetation is dominated by scattered low shrubs of Acacia macracantha.
Other shrubs include Croton wagneri , Dodonaea viscosa , and Caesalpinia spinosa.
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The rosette-plant Agave americana is common on some slopes, as well as the introduced Aloe vera. Cacti are frequent on some sites, including Opuntia soederstromiana , O. Species of epiphytic Bromeliaceae that are adapted to long periods of drought, including Tillandsia recurvata and T. On more humid sites, such as along watercourses, are small trees of Salix humboldtiana and Schinus molle. In between the grass tussocks grow a diverse assemblage of herbaceous plants, some prostrate and some erect, including species of Halenia , Gentiana , Gentianella , Ranunculus , Geranium , Castilleja , Lupinus , and Valeriana.
Scattered small shrubs such as Chuquiraga jussieui , Baccharis caespitosa , and Lupinus pubescens also occur amid the bunch-grasses. But if it rains hard, for several days in a row, the entire forest will blossom within the span of three or four days. After a few days, the trees reach their maximum flowering point and the blossoms begin to fall to the ground shortly after.
The fallen flowers form a yellow carpet around the base of each tree—but many are quickly eaten by the hungry goats that wander around the area grazing. Most families who live in the area make their living by tending herds of goats and cows that they harvest for meat, and planting crops of corn and sweet potatoes.
In , Altamirano assembled a small team, including a photographer and videographer, to put together a pilot project to promote the area as a tourist destination. A municipal organization has built a few community-owned cabins. Some families offer their porches for tourists to set up their tents.
Others open up their homes as make-shift restaurants or lend their showers and bathrooms to people who camp in designated areas of the forest. The best way to see it is to be in Ecuador during January, and leave enough flexibility in your plans to set out for Mangahurco—a six-hour drive from Loja, the closest major city—at the last minute. Follow us on Twitter to get the latest on the world's hidden wonders.
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The second edition of our bestselling book. This desert-like landscape is covered with yellow flowers for only a few days a year. All Photos: Nicolas van Drunen. In This Story. Destination Guide. Source: Telegraph. Source: BBC. In , Ecuador was the first country to officially recognise the rights of nature.
This also means that Ecuador is the closest country to space. Source: Smithsonian Institution. Source: Conservation International. It is well known that Ecuador is named after the equator which runs through the country. Source: Encyclopedia. This is supposed to be where one can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern. Unfortunately, thanks to modern re-measurements the exact equator is said to lie meters north of the marked line and monument. Source: World Geodetic System.
Source: Wikipedia. Source: Darwin Online. Ecuador is one of three countries created in following the collapse of Gran Colombia. After independence from the Spanish colony, the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the short-lived republic of Gran Colombia —30 was created.