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A Peak into Pastaza: A “Botanist’s Dream”


Nature and Culture staff and Board of Directors journeyed to the lush* forests of Pastaza

Nature and Culture staff and a few members of our Board of Directors recently embarked on a journey to the Pastaza Ecological Sustainable Use Area – a 6.3-million-acre conservation corridor in the Amazon rainforest. Nature and Culture helped the Pastaza provincial government and seven indigenous nationalities establish this reserve last year, protecting an immense swath of eastern Ecuador’s lowland forest.

The area holds world records for a wide array of plant and animal groups, from amphibians to trees to insects. A single hectare (2.47 acres) in the region may contain more tree species than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined, according to a 2010 Texas State University study.

Nature and Culture President Matt Clark described it as “a profound experience to fly for an hour over uninterrupted rainforest. It’s increasingly rare to see a large intact ecosystem like that – I’ve never seen so much forest at one time – and I hope Nature and Culture can help maintain it that way.”

The journey to Pastaza allowed our staff and Board members to experience this extraordinary and diverse forest first-hand, and meet indigenous nationalities residing in the area.

“To me, it was profoundly encouraging to meet Nature and Culture’s savvy and hard-working staff, indigenous leaders, and elected officials of great integrity, all committed to the environment AND to indigenous rights…

And we sure did see the Amazon, in amazing ways!

In a plane worthy of troop-transport, we flew long and low over completely intact* Amazon, where I witnessed how the lush eastern Andes mountains slowly grade down into undulating, jungle-covered hills, for untold miles, before becoming what I’d always thought of as the flat Amazon (this topologic variation apparently contributes to the biodiversity of the Amazon). 

In a dugout canoe, sitting down at the height of the river on backless planks for hours, we were one with the stillness of the Amazon, seeing myriad plants that were a botanist’s dream, being steered by indigenous guides who seemed completely indifferent to the alternating baking sun and tropical downpours (punctuated by rainbows in between).

Stopping at tiny indigenous villages, not rigged for tourists, and being invited into dirt-floored cabins shared with chickens, yielded insights and experiences that are just not possible without connecting to the Ecuadorians who are, in these hard-to-access (and thus still richly biodiverse) places, truly doing the work of saving the planet.”

Marcia Angle, Board Member

Catch a glimpse of Pastaza’s lush forests and incredible culture – check out these breathtaking photos provided by Nature and Culture Board member Charles Smith. 

*Editor’s note: We received useful feedback after posting the article that referring to the forest as “pristine” obscures the profound effect indigenous people have had on the rich biodiversity of these landscapes. Indigenous communities have shaped the Amazon, as well as pre-montane and cloud forest ecosystems, for thousands of years. The current forest structure and array of biodiversity reflects active indigenous management and the work of ancient communities. We have changed “pristine” to “lush” and “intact” to better describe these forests. Learn more here:

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