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Ecology & Nature
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Introduction

There are nine broad eco-zones or habitats in this small territory called Ecuador. All of them are unique and beautiful. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are threatened by the destructive processes of man. Agriculture, cattle raising and deforestation, along with industrial processes such as oil exploitation and the poor management of toxic wastes have notably diminished the biological richness of the country.

Thanks to the growth of consciousness about the possible loss of these natural ecosystems, Ecuador has created a system of national parks and public and private ecological reserves, all of them directed by INEFAN (Ecuadorian Forest Institute of Natural Areas and Wildlife). These extremely important natural reserves are islands of nature filled with invaluable treasures for all humanity and not only Ecuador.

The natural parks are divided among the following ecosystems: wet tropical forest of the northwest littoral, dry tropical forest, Amazonian tropical rainforest, mangrove forests, cloud forest, inter-Andean valleys, high altitude grasslands or paramo and the Galapagos Islands.

Flora in Ecuador I

The flora of the northwestern tropical wet forest is filled with huge trees that range between 20 and 30 meters tall. The trees of this ecosystem are: laurel, wax palm, pambil, tangare, sande, tagua and others. There are also abundant epiphytes, bromeliads, ferns, moss and orchids. The biggest threat to this ecosystem is the lumber industry and agriculture.

The flora of the tropical dry forest is characterized by large shrubs of 8 meters such as the algarrobos and cactus. There are also big trees that are unfortunately valued for the quality of their wood like the ceibo, balsa, holly tree, laurel and guayacán.

The Amazonian tropical rainforest is characterized by abundant vegetation with trees that pass 30 meters in height. There are also small palms and species like achiote, wild avocado, chonta, tangarama, wild grape, vanilla, guayusa, morete, chuncho, dragon's blood, cacao, balsamo and lots of lianas and epiphytes. Human colonization and subsequent deforestation and oil exploitation are the major threats.

The Galapagos has acacias, cactus, cotton, mangroves, salty grass, algarrobos, ferns, lichens, matasarno, epiphytes, escalesias, ferns, moss, muyuyo, cat's claw and shrubs in the highlands.

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