The Podocarpus National Park and Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve covers an area of over 2.6 million acres in southern Ecuador and is considered to be one of the most important sites for biodiversity in the world. It is a meeting point between four ecological systems: Northern Andes, Southern Andes, Amazonian and Pacific.
Podocarpus National Park is a national park located in the provinces of Zamora Chinchipe and Loja, in the southeast of Ecuador. The park is part of the Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve and is is made up of two primary areas: the upper premontane section with tropical cloud forests and the lower subtropical section. There are large areas of virgin forest containing three specific species of genus Podocarpus.
Podocarpus National Park covers 1,462.80 sq km (565 sq mi), from two spurs of the eastern range of the Andes to the basins of the Nangaritza, Numbala, and Loyola rivers. It is categorized as a megadiverse zone and an area with a high level of endemic species because it is a meeting point between four ecological systems: Northern Andes, Southern Andes, Amazonian, and Pacific. Although considerable knowledge has been gathered about its biodiversity in parts of the area, only a minority of the species inhabiting the park has been discovered so far.
Podocarpus National Park spans from lower montane rain forests at 1,000 m (3,300 ft) up to high elevation elfin forests at 3,000 m (9,800 ft). Paramo or subparamo vegetation is found at elevations over 3,000 m (9,800 ft) where a complex of more than 100 lagoons exists, among the best known being the Lagunas del Compadre.
The Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve covers an area of over 2.6 million acres in southern Ecuador. This area, which includes the Podocarpus National Park, is considered to be one of the most important sites for biodiversity in the world. It contains 5,000 plant species, over 40% are which are endemic or restricted to this area, including an abundance of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and tree species.
Along with such attractive mammals as the spectacled bear, mountain tapir, ocelot and puma, the Reserve is home to more than 800 bird species, including 61 species of hummingbirds and 81 different tanagers. Birds include the spectacular Andean cock-of-the-rock, and many endemic species such as the Neblina Metaltail and the White-breasted Parakeet.
Rainfall amounts vary widely across the region, averaging between 380 and 8,000 mm (15 and 315 in) per year. These conditions have shaped 48 distinct types of ecosystems with exceptional biodiversity.
The páramos, or high altitude grasslands, and cloud forests of the reserve are the source of four bi-national rivers that supply water to almost one million people in Ecuador and Peru.
This area also contains the territories of the indigenous Shuar and Saraguro groups, the cities of Loja and Zamora, and several centers of religious culture and tourism such as El Cisne, Vilcabamba, and Nangaritza. The reserve also provides water for two million people in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.