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Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve




Location: Imbabura Province  Map

Area: 752,235 acres (3,044 km2)




Description of Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve

Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve is a protected mountainous area situated in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador. Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve covers a total area of 752,235 acres (3,044 km2). Natural reserve contains numerous biospheres that range from tropical with a average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius to Andeean biological zone that has an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius throughout a year. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the park is a Cuicocha Lake. It is water filled volcanic crater that reaches depth of over 200 meter deep.




The Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve was created in August 1968 and is managed by the Ministry of Environment. In the upper part of the Reserve there is a cooperative that runs a tourism program in the Cuicocha lagoon and the Cotacachi volcano. In addition, the Municipality of Cotacachi maintains a strong interest in the preservation of forests and moors that are within the area of ​​its jurisdiction.

The Reserve covers a wide range of altitudes and, therefore, a great diversity of ecosystems, ranging from the highlands of the Cotacachi volcano, to the humid Piemontano forest in the upper and middle basins of the San Miguel rivers , Santiago, Bravo and Guaduero. Most of the area is covered by forests, the most representative being the Piemontano humid forest and the montane mist forest. There is also a smaller percentage of tropical humid forest, under 1,000 m, and of stunted forest and Polylepis over 3,000 m.

There is also a small proportion of artificial landscapes in the form of grassland for livestock and agricultural land. The entire area included in the Reserve is dedicated to the conservation of its biological diversity (although there are also illegal extractive activities in the interior), but in the surroundings there are other types of uses, such as intensified forest management for timber extraction , hunting, agriculture and livestock. Additionally, certain areas are tourist sites, such as the Cuicocha lagoon and the Cotacachi volcano.

It is estimated that the diversity of flora is high, due to the wide range of altitudes that the Reserve covers and its surroundings, it must be among the highest in the western Andes of Ecuador. More than 2000 species of vascular plants have been registered in the buffer zone, which represents 13.8% of the total number registered in the Catalog of Vascular Plants of Ecuador, containing many herbaceous species, shrubs and a variety of trees , vines and ferns.

It is estimated that the total number of bird species that inhabit the Reserve is between 500 and 600, however, it is important to take into account that under 600 m the area covered by the Reserve only reaches a few hundred hectares and that, therefore, the Reserve may not be able to maintain viable populations of some threatened species that inhabit mainly in the lowlands, such as the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the northern pavón (Crax rubra), the green macaw (Ara ambigua), the multicolored torito (Capito quinticolor), the red-haired honeycomb (Dacnis berlepschi) and the mustacheful tanager (Tangara johannae). On the periphery of the upper area of ​​this area, small flocks of yellow-eared parakeets (Ognorhynchus icterotis) were sighted until the 1980s, but it is unknown if they currently inhabit the Reserve. At the same time, this reserve is home to important populations of numerous threatened and almost threatened species, for which it is perhaps the most important protected area in Ecuador, such as the leaden mountain hawk (Micrastur plumbeus), the scaly terrestrial cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus) and the bull bird (Cephalopterus penduliger).

The following globally threatened mammal species have been recorded near the boundaries or within the Reserve: the woolly possum (Caluromys derbianus), the moor deer (Mazama rufina), the mountain dog (Speothos venaticus), the river otter (Lontra longicaudis), the tigrillo (Leopardus tigrinus), the jaguar (Panthera onca), the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the bushy-tailed olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii), the rag-tailed armadillo (Cabassous centralis), the monkey bracilargo spider (Ateles fusciceps), the peel (Dinomys branickii), the mountain bale (Agouti taczanowskii), the long-tailed bat (Choeroniscus periosus), the spectral bat (Vampyrum spectrum), the small fruit bat (Rhinophylla alethina), the broad-nosed bat (Platyrrhinus chocoensis) and the crab rat (Ichthyomys hydrobates). The diversity of herpetofauna and entomofauna is estimated to be high, but information about them is lacking.





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