Where We Work 2017-10-23T15:49:54+00:00


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.

Biodiversity Numbers:

    • Endemic Plant Species: 2,750
    • Endemic Threatened Birds: 22
    • Endemic Threatened Mammals: 7
    • Endemic Threatened Amphibians: 9
    • Human Population Density (people/km²): 51


An Important Bird Area (IBA) is an area recognized as being a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations. The program was developed and sites are identified by BirdLife International. These sites are small enough to be entirely conserved and differ in their character, habitat, or ornithological importance from the surrounding habitat. IBAs are determined by an internationally agreed set of criteria.
The Jama-Coaque Reserve is part of Important Bird Area Hacienda Camarones EC010, established in 2005. TMA is currently working with partner Aves y Conservación, the Ecuadorian branch of BirdLife International, to revise and update the data sheet for IBA EC010. After more than 6 years of Ornithological work in the Jama-Coaque Reserve our team has documented more than 301 species of bird in IBA  EC010, including 22 internationally threatened species. This number of threatened species makes IBA EC010 the IBA with the most globally-threatened bird species out of all 107 designated IBA’s in Ecuador.
Jama-Coaque Bird Observatory

List of Internationally Threatened Species in IBA EC010:

    • Gray-backed Hawk
    • Gray-cheeked Parakeet
    • Slaty Becard
    • Brown Wood-Rail
    • Gray-breasted Flycatcher
    • Little Woodstar
    • Ochraceous Attila
    • Ochre-breasted Dove
    • Pacific Royal Flycatcher
    • Plumbeous Forest-Falcon
    • Plumbeous Hawk
    • Ruddy Pigeon
    • Rufous-headed Chachalaca
    • Scarlet-breasted Dacnis
    • Black-and-white Tanager
    • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
    • Great Tinamou
    • Guayaquil Woodpecker
    • Olive-sided Flycatcher
    • Orange-fronted Barbet
    • Pale-browed Tinamou
    • Red-masked Parakeet


Coastal Ecuador contains a long coastal mountain range that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean at an average distance of 10 km, which is called the Pacific Equatorial Mountain Range (Cordillera Costera de Pacífico Ecuatorial). This mountain range has three major sub-ranges, which include the Chongón-Colonche Range, the Jama-Coaque Range, and the Mache-Chindul Range. The vast majority of forest that still remains in coastal Ecuador is limited to the uplands of these three sub-ranges of the Pacific Equatorial Mountains.
The geology of the Jama-Coaque mountain range is similar to that of the rest of coastal Ecuador in that the structural direction runs along a NNE/SSW orientation parallel to the Andean Cordillera, which is about 150 km to the east. The Pacific Equatorial Mountains are made up of a basal nucleus of volcanic and sedimentary rocks of Jurassic and Cretaceous age. The terrain consists of steep or gradual slopes carved out by numerous stream valleys in the forested mountains, which give way to deforested flat lands below.
The highest peaks of the coastal range reach an elevation 840 meters (2,756 feet) above sea level, although most peaks are in the elevation range of 500-600 meters (1,640-1,968 feet). Cerro Sagrado, the highest peak in the Jama-Coaque Reserve, reaches an elevation of 698 meters (2,290 feet).


The cold waters of the Humboldt ocean current are generated off the southern tip of South America and flow up along the coast of the continent, creating the world’s driest desert (the Atacama) in western Chile and Peru. The warm waters of the El Niño ocean current, generated offshore of tropical Central America, create the wettest forests in the world, on the coast of Colombia. Coastal Ecuador is located at the convergence of these two ocean currents and the ecological extremes which they create, accounting for the dramatic climatic variations that characterize the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest.
The point of convergence between the two currents oscillates between the north and south on an annual basis. Starting in December, the warm El Niño current moves southward and brings with it heavy rains that last through June. Starting in July or August, the cold Humboldt current pushes the El Niño current back north and accordingly generates cool, dry weather.
Throughout coastal Ecuador, rainfall varies sharply, along both the north-to-south gradient and as a function of elevation. Average annual rainfall ranges from over 4,000 mm at the Colombian border to as little as 100 mm at the Peruvian border. Even within the same latitude, there can be xeric (very dry) conditions along the shoreline and then pluvial (very wet) conditions as little as six kilometers inland along the peaks of the coastal mountains. Species characteristic of both of these extreme conditions can often be found cohabitating within the same stream valley.
A layer of fog generated from the ocean shrouds the peaks of the coastal mountains most of the year, creating cloud forest. At this elevation much of the annual precipitation is generated in the form of fog drip (also called horizontal precipitation), in which fog condenses on plant foliage and then drips down onto the ground below. The cloud forest is wet and green every day of the year, even during the dry season. Conversely, the forests along the shores of the ocean are deciduous and lose their leaves during the dry season, in the same way that a temperate forest sheds its leaves in winter. In some parts of the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest, cloud forest and deciduous forest are separated by as little as four kilometers. Between these two local extremes lies tropical moist evergreen forest.
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