Ecuador’s ‘Hemisferios’ reserve: A biodiverse, water ‘factory’ near Quito

By Susana Madera

Napo province, Ecuador, Mar 15 (EFE).- Three hours from the concrete urban landscape of Quito, an ecological reserve that is a transition zone between cloud and Andean forests and gateway to the Ecuadorian Amazon is home to a vast array of flora and fauna.

A bat flapping its wings, the crunching of leaves and plants underfoot in vegetation-covered spaces, the incessant singing of birds, the soothing symphony of streams and large rivers are all part of the soundtrack at the 2,160-hectare (5,330-acre) “Hemisferios” Biodiversity Reserve, an area managed since 2019 by Quito’s Hemispheres University.

At present, that reserve is the setting for a journalism project aimed at making the theme of environmental conservation and protection a bigger part of the media’s agenda.

According to a Hemispheres University study cited by the dean of its Communications Department, Juan David Bernal, only around “one of every 48” media segments addresses these topics.

“We don’t have specialized journalism, and, besides, the content has a very negative focus,” he said, noting that the program was launched with the aim of providing “experiential pedagogy” and “generating empathy.”

Sponsored by the Charles Darwin Foundation, the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), and the US Embassy, the program’s goals include establishing an association of environmental journalists and communicators in Ecuador and publishing an Environmental Journalism Manual, which will be the first of its kind in the Andean nation.

The reserve’s station is reachable via a 16-kilometer (10-mile) drive along a rocky path, a hike amid massive trees and varied vegetation and the crossing of two hanging bridges.

Daniel Barragan, the director of that reserve located in the north-central Ecuadorian province of Napo’s Cosanga parish, said it receives copious amounts of rainfall and features different altitudinal gradients at elevations ranging from 2,000 meters (6,550 feet) to 3,300 meters.

He also noted that it is home to flora and fauna with high potential as subjects of academic research.

The reserve furthermore is a three-time recipient of a global award for premier birdwatching destination, Mayra Reyes, the university’s project liaison director, said in reference to the area’s tourism potential.

Other fauna that may be spotted during a nature hike at the reserve include mammals such as spectacled bears, tapirs, deer and coatis.

“We’re in one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The Andean mountain ranges are home to around 20 percent of the world’s biodiversity,” Ricardo Zambrano, technical director of the Quito Botanical Gardens, said at the reserve.

“There are some 18,400 species of plants in Ecuador, around 4,000 of which inhabit cloud forests,” he said at the foot of a 12-meter-tall tree fern belonging to a species “that was present on Earth before the dinosaurs.”

The expert added that the “Hemisferios” reserve is criss-crossed by three rivers that are fed by the glacier-clad Antisana Volcano and is a freshwater “factory.”

“One hectare of this forest can retain some 600 cubic meters of water, which is equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool,” he said.

And though the area’s biodiversity is evident at the surface, “the true aquiferous treasure lies below, since there are countless sources of subterranean water, hidden reservoirs” that are packed with life, Zambrano said. EFE


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