Ecuador's Choco Andean Corridor
Justicia, Rebeca Maria
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This dissertation describes the history of establishment of the Chocó Andean Corridor of Northwest Ecuador, elaborates on a systematic process of prioritization of conservation areas, illustrates how ambitious plans are being implemented on the ground and, along the way, addresses such difficult issues as integrating research, conservation, funding, development and political agendas. The general aim is to advance the understanding of the key elements essential for successful Neotropical forest conservation; the specific goal is to provide baseline studies that can be used to formulate conservation and land-use management policy related to the development of the Chocó Andean corridor. To encompass the geographic magnitude and thematic complexity of my object of study, I use an embedded case study methodology. An ecoregional approach reconciles the protection of biodiversity beyond the boundaries of the established National System of Protected Areas (SNAP) with the human needs of community development and economic alternatives to deforestation and may well present the best future conservation scenario. Protected areas alone do not serve well the two main objectives of biodiversity conservation—representation and permanency. Economic pressure drives deforestation, and viable alternatives to deforestation must be implemented. Reforestation with the native bamboo (Guadua angustifolia) and management of wild stands of this bamboo are described as a novel tool to integrate biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and climate change mitigation. Other key findings are that well organized human communities are the best partners for conservation; land tenure security is essential for conservation; conservation projects that also invest in productive infrastructure are the most successful; novel policy tools, such as carbon trading that could provide economic incentives for conservation, should be pursued; economies of scale must be reached to successfully market and commercialize the products and services of conservation; and finally, monitoring of conservation success should be planned from the onset and should be scientifically sound and participatory.