A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans. To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation. Around the world, 25 areas qualify under this definition. These sites support nearly 60% of the world’s plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a very high share of endemic species. The Pacific Ecuadorian Forest is part of the “Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena” Biodiversity Hotspot.
From the Panama Canal, the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot extends south and east into the wet and moist forests of Panama’s Darién Province, through the Chocó region of western Colombia and the moist forests along the west coast of Ecuador, and into the dry forests of southern Ecuador and northwestern Peru. The hotspot is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the east by the 1,000-meter elevation contour of the western slope of the Andes Mountains, where the Tropical Andes Hotspot begins.
The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot includes a wide variety of habitats, ranging from mangrove, beach, rocky shoreline, and coastal wilderness to some of the world’s wettest rain forests in the Colombian Chocó. In addition, South America’s only remaining coastal dry forests occur in this hotspot. Scattered throughout the relatively flat coastal plain are a number of small mountain systems that have fostered the evolution of “islands” of endemism within the region. In general, the hotspot can be divided into two major phytogeographic regions, the Chocó/Darién wet and moist forests in the north (represented in blue on the map) and the Ecuadorian/Peruvian Tumbesian dry forests in the south (represented in yellow on the map). The Pacific Ecuadorian Forest and the Jama-Coaque Reserve (Red triangle on the map) are located at the transition point between the wet Chocó forests in the north and the dry Tumbesian forests in the south; oftentimes both of these major phytogeographic regions are represented within the same square kilometer, which accounts for the extraordinary diversity of vegetation found within this ecosystem.
- Endemic Plant Species: 2,750
- Endemic Threatened Birds: 22
- Endemic Threatened Mammals: 7
- Endemic Threatened Amphibians: 9
- Human Population Density (people/km²): 51