Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot (Panama, South America)

Read so far

Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot (Panama, South America)

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 17:20
Posted in:

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot includes the tropical forests of the Pacific coast of northwestern South America and the Galápagos Islands. Stretching from southern Panama to northern Peru, this biodiversity hotspot consists of many endemic species and habitats.

Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot

Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena is a biodiversity hotspot that extends for 1,500 km (930 mi), encompassing almost 275,000 sq km (106,000 sq mi). Formerly known as the Chocó-Darién-Western Ecuador hotspot, it has been expanded to include several additional areas, notably the Magdalena Valley in northern Colombia.

Stretching from southern Panama to northern Peru, along the western coastal flank of the Andes Mountains, this biodiversity hotspot includes many endemic species and habitats.

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot includes the tropical moist forests and dry forests of the Pacific coast of northwestern South America and the Galápagos Islands. It is bordered by two other hotspots: the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor to the north and the Tropical Andes to the east.

From the Panama Canal, the hotspot extends south and east into the wet and moist forests of Panama's Darién Province, through the Chocó region of western Colombia and the moist forests along the west coast of Ecuador, and into the dry forests of eastern Ecuador and extreme northwestern Peru.

A branch of the hotspot spreads east around the northern extent of the Colombian western and central cordillera, through the dry forests along the Caribbean coast as far as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and south into the Cauca and Magdalena valleys.

The rest of the hotspot is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the east by the 1,000-m (3,280-ft) elevation contour of the western slope of the Andes Mountains where the Tropical Andes hotspot begins.

In addition to these mainland areas, Malpelo Island off the coast of Colombia and the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are also included in the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot.

Map with the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot highlighted

Map with the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot highlighted

In general, the hotspot can be divided into two major phytogeographic regions, the Chocó/Darién wet and moist forests in the north and the Ecuadorian/Peruvian Tumbesian dry forests in the south.

The hotspot includes a number of ecoregions:

  • Chocó-Darién moist forests (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama)

  • Ecuadorian dry forests (Ecuador)

  • Guayaquil flooded grasslands (Ecuador)

  • Gulf of Guayaquil-Tumbes mangroves (Ecuador, Peru)

  • Galápagos Islands xeric scrub (Ecuador)

  • Magdalena Valley montane forests (Colombia)

  • Magdalena-Urabá moist forests (Colombia)

  • Manabí mangroves (Ecuador)

  • Tumbes-Piura dry forests (Ecuador, Peru)

  • Piura mangroves (Peru)

  • Western Ecuador moist forests (Colombia, Ecuador)


There are an estimated 11,000 different vascular plant species found in the hotspot. In addition, there are nearly 900 species of birds, including 17 threatened species, living in the hotspot.

There are more than 285 mammal species in this hotspot; the most well-known are the primates. There are more than 320 different reptilian species, and about 20 of these live in the Galápagos Islands. There are more than 200 amphibian species throughout the hotspot.

Endemic animal species like the bare-necked umbrellabird and the brightly-colored poison dart frogs are characteristic of the region. The white-winged guan of Southern Ecuador and extreme northern Peru is seriously threatened with extinction.

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot includes various habitats, ranging from mangroves, beaches, rocky shorelines, and coastal wilderness to some of the world's wettest rain forests in the Colombian Chocó. In addition, South America's only remaining coastal dry forests occur in this hotspot.

Scattered throughout the relatively flat coastal plain are several small mountain systems that have fostered the evolution of "islands" of endemism within the region.

Threats to Biodiversity

Species continue to decline due to urbanization and hunting, particularly of large birds and mammals, and deforestation, especially in coastal mangrove forests. As a result, Ecuador's coastal forests have been reduced to only 2 percent of their original coverage area.

The factors that threaten Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena are farming encroachment, deforestation, illegal crops and population growth. Whereas the Panamanian and Colombian portions of the hotspot are relatively intact, approximately 98% of native forest in coastal Ecuador has been cleared, rendering it the most threatened tropical forest in the world.