This video is called Trip to Ecuador, Cloud forest, part 1 – Walk in clouds.
This video is called Trip to Ecuador, Cloud forest part 2 – Butterfly Night Hunting.
Private reserve safeguards newly discovered frogs in Ecuadorian cloud forest
August 28, 2012
Although it covers only 430 hectares (1,063 acres) of the little-known Chocó forest in Ecuador, the private reserve of las Gralarias in Ecuador is home to an incredible explosion of life. Long known as a birder’s paradise, the Reserva las Gralarias is now making a name for itself as a hotspot for new and endangered amphibians, as well as hundreds of stunning species of butterfly and moth. This is because the reserve is set in the perfect place for evolution to run wild: cloud forest spanning vast elevational shifts.
“The pacific slope cloud forests [...] are among the most endangered habitats in the world,” explains Reserva las Gralarias’ founder, Jane Lyons, in a recent interview with mongabay.com. “In South America [these forests were] separated from eastern lowland Amazonia when the Andes were uplifted. The tall mountains formed a long and fairly impenetrable barrier between the Pacific Ocean weather systems and the eastern Amazonian lowlands [...] All of these barriers and separations led to extensive speciation as entire new ecosystems were born.”
A series of scientific surveys in las Gralarias over the last decade have borne this out. To date, Reserva las Gralarias is known to be home to over 450 species of moth and butterfly, 27 species of hummingbirds, 24 birds endemic to the region and 12 threatened birds, as well as ten endangered amphibians. But discoveries of new species are also increasing: two new species of frog have been described in the last year alone, and six more await formal description form the reserve. The reserve also harbors a bat species, Anoura fistulata, which was only described in 2005; meanwhile big keystone mammals like pumas and spectacled bears make regular appearances.
“Unfortunately the habitat for these species is shrinking throughout their very limited ranges,” Lyons says, adding that “general development, agriculture, timber extraction, new roads and infrastructure are all having a huge direct impact and are also drawing more people to the area and then that just feeds the need for more development and natural resource destruction. “
Defined as montane rainforests that receive much of their precipitation from fog or mist, cloud forests are not only important as some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, but also for regional weather and water systems.
“Mountainous cloud forests are critical [...] for helping maintain the global water cycle. The rain water brought inland in the clouds is channeled downslope and back into the oceans while the cloud forest vegetation provides habitat and protects the underlying soil thus slowing mountainous erosion,” Lyons says, who notes that this particular cloud forest likely impacts regional weather.
Despite their importance, cloud forests worldwide are lesser known than many of the larger rainforest ecosystems like the Amazon and Congo.
“As with the larger more charismatic animals, larger more charismatic ecosystems have long caught the public’s eye. I think this is simply the way humans think and judge—we are attracted to and awed by blingy, big and beautiful things! Smaller and more subtle things—from jewelry to architecture to animals to ecosystems—just get lost in the shuffle,” Lyons says, adding that “We are one planet and by now we should understand that our ecosystems are all interconnected. If we destroy one part of our planet, it will affect the rest. For example, if we destroy the overwintering habitat of northern migrant bird species, then we are dooming those species to eventual extinction on their breeding grounds as well.”
While public protected areas have become a keystone to the global conservation effort, private reserves like Reserva las Gralarias are also saving imperiled places and threatened species. Although private reserves have their own challenges, Lyons says they can also avoid some of the pitfalls of public reserves which are dependent on government funding and stewardship, a lesson that is noteworthy in an age when many developing countries are opening up protected areas for conversion into agricultural monocultures, mining, or fossil fuel extraction.
Having started the reserve in 1998 with the simple purchase of 7.5 hectares (19 acres) from a cattle farmer, Lyons has expanded the reserve by over 50 times its original size in just 14 years.
When asked how to replicate her success, she says, “Be prepared to work 24-7 to achieve your dream. The good news is that it is all definitely worth the effort. To be able to help save some part of the planet’s biodiversity is immensely difficult but also immensely rewarding and even fun. You go to bed exhausted but happy that maybe you have helped save a frog species from extinction.”
The article continues with an interview with Jane Lyons.