Terrain shapes and bedrock
As a topographic backbone, the Andes mountain ranges extend throughout Ecuador in the north-south direction. The narrower southern part of the country is completely met by the mountains, while the middle and northern parts have broad lowland areas in both the west and the east.
North of the deeply invading Guayaquil Bay in the south, with the island of Puná, stretches the coastal plain, La Costa, in the form of a 160–190 km wide topographic region, which is lower than 500 m above sea level. The lowland is mostly built up of young sedimentary rocks, covered by a fertile soil layer. The drainage of the area is mainly south to the Guayas basin, which is flooded by the Daule and Babahojo rivers. In the northern lowlands Esmeralda’s is the largest river.
The high and fairly narrow mountain region, La Sierra, is bounded by the low areas to the west and east respectively by the two main chains of the Andes, the West and East Cordillera. About thirty peaks are volcanoes, including the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, at 5,897 m above sea level. Other high peaks are the extinguished volcano Chimborazo (6,310m above sea level), Cayambe (5,790m above sea level), Antisana (5,704m above sea level), Sangay (5,230m above sea level) and Altar (5,266m asl). Through transverse mountain ridges of volcanic origin, the 625 km long and 70 km wide high plateau is divided into ten intermittent streams, hoyas. They are located at an altitude of 1,800–2,600 m above sea level. and houses the greater part of Ecuador’s highland population.
According to COUNTRYAAH, a third landform region in Ecuador, as well as the largest, is located in the northeast and forms part of the upper Amazon basin, El Oriente. Foothills from the mountain range divide this forested, sparsely populated area into different parts. Most of Ecuador’s rivers are located here, flow east to the Amazon River and are the most navigable. Most important is Napo, with the tributaries Coca and Aguarico, which flows through a part of Peru, where it is then united with the Amazon River.
Despite Ecuador’s location at the equator, the climate is not uniformly tropical, as it is strongly influenced by the country’s varying altitude conditions and by the cold, northbound Humboldt stream. The coastal plain has a hot climate, where the temperature shows little annual variation. Inland the temperatures are raised and are between 23 °C and 25 °C. The precipitation falls during January to May and amounts to 2,000 mm per year, while the coastal distance to the farthest south only receives 275 mm per year.
In the mountain region, the climate varies from tropical in some low basin areas to arctic with constant snow in the highest parts. The rainfall here falls from October to May and amounts to between 300 and 1,500 mm per year. Some areas of the mountainous regions have an extremely pleasant and healthy climate with temperatures during the year of 17-20 °C.
The eastern lowland area is the warmest and humid in all of Ecuador. The average temperature is 23–27 °C, and the rainfall is 5 900 mm per year. The humidity there can rise to 90% over several months.
Plant-and animal life
The country is very rich in both plants and animals. There are 18,000–20,000 species of vascular plants, about 1,450 species of birds (including winterers and occasional visitors), probably over 150 species of each amphibian, and in particular a very species-rich fish and insect fauna.
In the coastal (up to 50–100 km from the sea) areas from 2 ° south latitude to the Peruvian border, vegetation is mostly desert or savanna. Here, scattered bushes or small trees dominate the genera of acacias, Cordia, Capparis, Erythrina, Croton and others. and some grass. Many of the trees on the savannah belong to the family monkey plants, e.g. Ceiʹba trischistaʹndra. Around estuaries and protected bays are mangrove forests with the species Rhizophora mangleas dominant trees. East of the dry area, a belt of lush monsoon forests takes place, where the trees cut their leaves during the dry season. Significant parts are woody during the rainy season. In recent decades, at least the drier forests have been almost completely destroyed and cultivated.
In northern Ecuador, west of the Andes and throughout the lowland area east of the Andes, the vegetation is tropical rainforest. The richness of the species is very large. The trees mainly belong to the families pea plants, mulberries, stock plants, nutmeg plants and mahogany plants. Furthermore, there are plenty of palm trees, Heliconia species, winding cold plants and epiphytic pineapple plants. Here the fauna is also the richest. One encounters on the skull monkey, capuchin monkeys, mantle monkey (Alouaʹtta palliaʹta), spider monkeys, tamarins, jaguars, ocelot, lowland tapestries, sloths, navel pigs, giant chicks and kapybara. Eye-catching birds include toucans, hummingbirds, kingfishers, macaws and other parrots. The amphibian fauna and fauna are rich and include. poison frogs, deciduous frogs, the flat, aquatic frog (Piʹpa piʹpa), which hatches the eggs in skin pockets on the back, as well as American land snakes, many snakes, boa worms and two species of caiman.
On the slopes on either side of the Andes, between about 700 and 2,500 meters above, a low-mounted rainforest with many epiphytic pineapple plants, orchids, ferns and mosses. Between about 2,500 and 3,400 meters above sea level. there are cloud forests, where the tree’s branches are covered with mosses, ferns and leafy plants. There are also plenty of tree worms growing here. In the mountain forests there are, among other things, glasses bear, mountain snare bear and mountain tapestry.
On the lower plateaus of the Andes, especially between 2,000 and 3,000 m above sea level, there was originally a sparse forest or shrub vegetation. It has long been largely cultivated or replaced during the 19th century with eucalyptus (ie the species Eucalyptus globulus) from Australia. On the plateaus around 3,400-4,000 m above sea level. you will find so-called paramos, open fields dominated by tough grasses of the genus Pipes (Calamagrostis), spring grass (Stipa) and swings (Festuca). There are also some species of puyas, which have flowers in beautiful ears. These areas are heavily influenced by man, so the populations of the mountain animals found here are now much reduced. Between 4,000 and 4,500 meters above sea level. grow dwarf bushes and pillow-shaped plants. Above, the vegetation is desert with only a few veneerogams.
See also the Galápagos Islands.
In 2010, there were 24 national parks in Ecuador. The Galápagos Islands were mostly a national park (6,937 km2), and the waters around the islands were marine reserve.
On the mainland, the rainforest area of Yasuní was the largest with 9 820 km2. However, this national park, which has the world’s largest registered biodiversity, is threatened by oil recovery plans. Several of the country’s high mountains are protected. Cotopaxi (National Park) and Chimborazo (Fauna Reserve). Among the rainforest areas that are protected can be mentioned Cuyabeno and a larger area around Rio Napo.