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- Monday, 11 May 2015

Andean Native Forest

 Is there any future for the ANDEAN NATIVE FOREST in Ecuador?

Considered like one of the highest biodiversity countries, Ecuador also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation estimated at over 300,000 hectares (3%) per year.

In the Andes Region native vegetation has been practically eliminated since colonial times, replaced by pasture, crops, towns and cities, and exotic trees (eucalyptus and pine).
This region suffers serious soil erosion problems and today only about 1 - 2% of its original forest cover remains, mainly at inaccessible high-altitude locations above 3400 meters elevation.

But this problem is not new; the Andes region was the first to feel extensive deforestation, to a limited level with the Incas during the 1400’s, and much more after the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1534. The Spanish colonial economy was organized around the large estates, mines and textile mills worked by the indigenous and African slave populations which produced the wealth for the Crown and colonial elites. The deforestation resulted in a 90% to 95% reduction of the natural forest.

Even though the ruling class changed as independence was won from Spain in the early 1800s, the fundamental socio-economic structure did not. During the period of the Republic, labour conditions under the hacienda system became even worse. The hacienda system continues until our days. During this period most native Andean forests had been cut and were unable to regenerate due to annual burning and the destruction of sheep and cattle brought by the Spanish, which had also devastated the soil over large areas.

Nowadays the Andes is the most densely populated area of Ecuador and this leads to a significant damage on the natural resources that leads to, among other things, a further deforestation. The three main motives are: expansion of the agricultural land, need for firewood and the demand for wood for the construction of houses. However the damage continue with the exotic species of trees, such as the Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata), Pinus patula and Eucalyptus globules, introduced in Ecuador during the last years of 19 century and the beginning of 20th. An objection is, that these forests contribute little to the biodiversity that belongs in this area and have an adverse effect on the soil and the water balance.
The landscape of the Ecuadorian Andes has changed and we do not have a clear understanding of how the native forest looks like because there are not much examples. It is obvious that the future of the forest in Ecuador is uncertain, but it depends of us that real changes happen.

Photo Credits: Ricardo Carrere, Pinos y eucaliptos en Ecuador:
símbolos de un modelo destructivo.

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