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A new species of Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae) from southeastern Ecuador
A new species of Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae) from southeastern Ecuador


Ecuador is well known among biologists and conservationists as one of the megadiversity countries, along with others in South America such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. This northern Andean nation is exceptional in that so large a number of animal and plant species are found in a relatively confined area. The smallest of the Andean countries, Ecuador has a land area of approximately 276,840 km² and covers only about 0.2 percent of the Earth’s land mass; continental Ecuador (excluding the Galápagos Islands) is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. With a human population of about 14.5 million, Ecuador is also the most densely populated country in South America. Two examples reveal Ecuador’s remarkable biological richness:

  • More than 1,600 bird species are known from Ecuador, 18 percent of the world’s total of about 9,000 birds.
  • More than 17,300 species of higher plants have been documented from Ecuador, about seven percent of the world’s total and about as many plant species as in all of North America north of Mexico, an area more than 200 times larger than Ecuador. Many new plant species continue to be discovered in Ecuador every year, and the total number of higher plants in the country is probably closer to 20,000.
  • For 30 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) has carried out a collaborative program of botanical research, capacity building, and conservation in Ecuador and, since 1985, has stationed a curator-in-residence permanently in the country. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, MBG focused its work in the Amazon lowlands of eastern Ecuador, which until then had been virtually unknown botanically. During the ensuing decade, MBG’s geographic focus shifted to the Pacific region of western Ecuador, including the rain forests of the Chocó region in the north and the dry forest region farther south, as well as the montane forests on the slopes of the Andes. More recently, MBG has concentrated its work in the Cordillera del Cóndor and the Cordillera de Cutucú in southeastern Ecuador, a region whose flora also was almost completely unknown before MBG began to work there. These mountain ranges form part of a discontinuous chain of geologically complex sub-Andean cordilleras at the interface between the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes and the Amazon lowlands that comprise one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth.

    Stenopadus andicola, Cordillera del Cóndor
    Stenopadus andicola,
    Cordillera del Cóndor
    New species of Symbolanthus, Cordillera del Cóndor
    New species of Symbolanthus,
    Cordillera del Cóndor

    The prospect of environmental degradation and habitat loss resulting from large-scale mining poses an imminent threat to the Cordillera del Cóndor and is the greatest challenge faced by the conservation initiatives in the region. The igneous formations of the Cóndor are rich in minerals, particularly gold and copper. Small-scale gold extraction by individual miners using traditional methods has been carried out in parts of the Cóndor and Cutucú for decades, but the governments of both Ecuador and Peru have recently granted large mining concessions, and proposals for large open-pit copper mines in the heart of the Cóndor range have been put forth.

    MBG’s program in Ecuador has four major goals:

  • Floristic inventory in poorly known regions of Ecuador, surveys of forests using one-hectare tree plots, and dissemination of results in printed and online publications
  • Application of scientific information generated by the floristic research to conservation, including the development and implementation of action plans for in situ and ex situ conservation of threatened plant species and delimitation of priority areas within Ecuador for plant conservation
  • Capacity building for science and conservation through training of Ecuadorian university students, professionals, and community people
  • Development and implementation of programs devoted to conservation and sustainable development of ecosystems and their constituent plants, including environmental management plans for protected areas
  • Learn more about the Missouri Botanical Garden's program in South America

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    Director, CCSD, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166 Phone: (314) 577-0871 © 2014