Chocó-Darién Moist Forests Ecoregion (Colombia, Panama)

Chocó-Darién Moist Forests Ecoregion (Colombia, Panama)

Posted in:

The Chocó-Darién moist forests ecoregion extends along most of Colombia's Pacific coast, bounded to the east by the Andes, and along the Caribbean coast, north into Panama. The region has exceptionally high rainfall, and the forests hold incredible biodiversity.

Chocó-Darién Moist Forests

The Chocó-Darién moist forests ecoregion, in the west of Colombia and east of Panama, is considered one of the most species-rich lowland areas in the world.

The ecoregion extends from eastern Panama, in the provinces of Darién and Kuna-Yala, along almost the entire Pacific Coast of Colombia, in the departments of Chocó, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Nariño.

The Chocó-Darién moist forests encompass a strip of land from sea level to an elevation of approximately 1,000 m (3,280 ft). It lies between the Pacific Ocean and the western range of the Andes Mountains, from west of the mouth of the Atrato River in Panama to the Patia River in Colombia.

There are five distinct subregions:

  • the northern coast, with the hill country areas of Darién and Urabá

  • the coastal zone along the Pacific coast, generally up to 500 m (1,640 ft) in elevation

  • the central strip, including the northern wet forests, the central rainforests and the San Juan River area

  • the hills of Carmen del Atrato and the San José del Palmar area

  • the jungles along the Pacific slope from 500 - 1,000 m (1,640 - 3,280 ft) in elevation

The mountainous areas include the western slopes of the Cordillera Occidental in Colombia and land massifs such as Cerro Torrá, Serranía del Darién, Sierra Llorona de San Blas and Serranía del Baudó.

Annual temperatures average 23.6 °C (74.5 °F), ranging from a minimum of 18.6 °C (65.5 °F) to a maximum of 30 °C (86 °F). Annual rainfall ranges from 4,000 - 9,000 mm (160 - 350 in).

The central region receives the most rain, in some areas as high as 13,000 mm (510 in). The north and south are comparatively drier, and some parts have short dry seasons from January to March.

Flora and Fauna

The ecoregion exhibits abundance and endemism over many taxons, including plants, birds, amphibians, and butterflies. As a result, its biological distinctiveness is outstanding worldwide, with incredible biological, ecological, and evolutionary biodiversity.

There are at least 8,000 vascular plant species in the Chocó-Darién moist forests, of which almost 20% are found nowhere else. The ecoregion has a high diversity of fauna, with many endemic species.

Protection Status

The northern and southern parts of the ecoregion have been considerably modified for ranching and farming. There are threats from logging for paper pulp, uncontrolled gold mining, coca growing, and industrialization. Still, the central part of the ecoregion is relatively intact.

The primary threat to this ecoregion is deforestation. About 30% of the 13,335 sq km (5,149 sq mi) of the ecoregion in Panama is protected to some extent, though, in Colombia, the total protected area is under 3%.

Protected areas include:

Map illustrating the location of the Chocó-Darién moist forests (in purple)

Map illustrating the location of the Chocó-Darién moist forests (in purple)