Note From The Field: Fabian Rodas, Local Conservationist
Strategic Area: Wild Places -
Content Type: Blog
Country: Ecuador -
A note from Ecuadorian conservationist Fabián Rodas López.
It was a pleasure speaking with the Nature and Culture Community the other day about the Sangay – Podocarpus Connectivity Corridor. In case you missed the webinar, Sangay – Podocarpus is the first connectivity corridor in Ecuador and one of the few of its kind in the world! It was officially declared last year thanks to dedicated people like you.
Spanning 1.4 million acres of diverse and fragile ecosystems, Sangay – Podocarpus reflects Nature and Culture’s innovative conservation model focused on connecting protected areas. The corridor will establish critical ecological connectivity in Ecuador, which boosts biodiversity and resilience in degraded ecosystems, allows wildlife to move and migrate, safeguards genetic flow between populations, and ensures species are better able to adapt to the changing climate.
As one of Nature and Culture’s local conservationists in Ecuador, I work with communities and other partners to protect, sustainably manage, and secure connectivity in the corridor. Together we’ve made exciting progress! Approximately 75% of Sangay – Podocarpus is now under protected status in 15 areas declared by national or local governments and communities.
Ecuador’s newest National Park, Río Negro-Sopladora, is one such area in the corridor. Río Negro-Sopladora, located on the eastern slope of the Andes, falls within the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the most biologically rich areas on the planet. The natural treasures this park protects have just begun to be discovered and valued in a national and international context. Just last year, scientists discovered ten potential new species in the park– eight frogs, one salamander, and one caecilian.
A few weeks ago, Nature and Culture achieved the creation of Santiago Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area, which will act as a buffer zone for the national park. In linking protected areas, Santiago establishes habitat connectivity essential for far-ranging animals like the jaguar (Panthera onca) and spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus). We will continue working with local governments and communities, hydro-power companies, a water fund, and other stakeholders for the sustainable management of connected protected areas within the corridor.
As exciting as these achievements are, the threats to wild places like Sangay – Podocarpus continue, and our time to save them is short.
Scientists predict that human activities could drive more than one million species to extinction within the next fifty years. We risk losing species before we even learn they exist – a devastating reality.
Forest fires, increasingly frequent and uncontrollable, are affecting various parts of our continent like the Amazon rainforest, where only a few years ago, this was not conceivable. In Ecuador, people depend on rain predictability for their food and livelihoods. These variable conditions are increasing poverty and migration, further driving deforestation and habitat loss.
The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many countries to reduce their budgets for conservation. Illegal activities such as mining, hunting, and logging have increased due to the lack of adequate patrols and rising prices of gold. Once these activities, legal or illegal, are established in natural ecosystems, it will take decades or centuries to return them to their original conditions, if ever.
In the nineteen years that I have worked at Nature and Culture, I am more convinced than ever that our community is capable of extraordinary things.
The local conservationists you support, including me, have made great progress in planning for the next few years of conservation work in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, and Mexico.
There is much work to be done, but with your support, we will continue working with communities, governments, universities, and other partners to develop innovative and sustainable processes to protect nature and culture.
Thank you for supporting local conservationists and communities in this great work to protect our planet.
Fabián Rodas López
Conservationist at Nature and Culture – Ecuador