Ecuador is considered one of the world’s “mega diverse” countries, with the Amazonian region in particular containing large tracts of intact natural forest of global conservation significance. It is divided into four distinct natural biogeographic regions: the Amazon, the Andes, the Pacific coastal plain and the Galapagos Islands. The majority of forest biomass - approximately 9.8 million hectares - is in the Amazon region (80%), with about 13% near the coast and the remaining 7% in the Andean highlands.
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Last updated: September 2014
There are three major forest types in Ecuador:
- Amazon rainforest, comprising about 62% of the forest estate;
- Montane (sierra) forests of various types in the Andes (on the western and eastern slopes, at lower and upper levels, and towards the Andean high peaks), comprising about 21% of the forest estate;
- Tropical rainforest in the coastal plains of the Pacific region, comprising of about 17% of the forests.
Mangrove forests were once widespread, but now cover only about 158,000 hectares.
The country has experienced major changes to its forest cover for many decades, mostly due to agricultural expansion and illegal logging, and has traditionally had one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Between 1990 and 2000, Ecuador experienced an annual deforestation rate of 1.5%; between 2005 and 2010, the annual average rose to 1.9%. According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, the national deforestation rate from 2008 to 2012 was approximately 0.6%, or an average of 74,400 hectares per year. Just under half of the country’s forested areas are comprised of primary forests.
The execution of the 2012 National Afforestation and Reforestation Plan (PNFR) is now underway throughout continental Ecuador. It aims to increase the total area of forestry plantations during a 20-year period by one million hectares; covering:
- Industrial and commercial forest plantations;
- Social forestry and agroforestry activities;
- Plantations to restore, conserve and protect natural resources; and
- Programs to support the PNFR, especially those related to financing, training and forestry research.
About Forest Resources
This section provides an overview of the country's forest cover and a list of species found naturally and on plantations.
In early 2013, Ecuador was one of 12 countries targeted by an Interpol operation to crack down on the illegal timber trade in Central and South America. The country has also prioritized lowering its deforestation rate through a number of national policies:
- Becoming the first country to grant inalienable rights to nature in its constitution,
- Launching the SocioBosque Program in 2008 to incentivize the protection of forests, and
- Developing the country’s Plan for Good Living in 2009, setting a national goal to reduce deforestation by 30% by 2013.
The SocioBosque Program is an incentive-based policy for forest conservation developed by the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador. Plans were drawn up for a dual-purpose program in forest conservation and poverty alleviation. The program attempts to achieve its dual goals by proving direct monetary, per hectare incentives to local landowners and indigenous communities that conserve native forest. Since its inception the program has expanded to cover areas of high-altitude grasslands (páramo) and forest restoration. As of October 2012, the Socio Bosque program protects over 1.1 million hectares of native ecosystems and has over 123,000 beneficiaries.
There are currently three kinds of permits under which legal harvesting is carried out: cutting permits; areas harvested according to simplified forest management plans (Programas de Aprovechamiento Forestal Simplificado – PAFSIs) involving non-mechanised extraction; and areas with integrated management and sustainable management areas (Programas de Aprovechamiento Forestal Sustentable – PAFSUs) – involving larger areas suitable for industrial harvesting. It is thought that the short term logging permits, in addition to their impact on the quality and efficiency of logging operations, have discouraged the development of a large commercial forestry industry in Ecuador, along with geographical constraints such as mountainous terrain, low timber density and difficulty of access. Nevertheless, the usage of short-term logging licences has encouraged foresters to consider other ways of ensuring future long-term supplies of timber, particularly through the development of forest plantations and agroforestry.
Ecuador is also currently engaged in initial, informal Voluntary Partnership Agreement discussions with the European Union under the auspices of the EU’s FLEGT (Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade) program. The VPA would ensure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources, and would help Ecuador stop illegal logging by improving regulation and governance of the forest sector.
A different forest management plan, asking that rich countries compensate Ecuador for not drilling in an Amazon rainforest reserve -Yasuni National Park – has been abandoned in August 2013. When first proposed in 2007, President Correa sought US$3.6bn in contributions to maintain a moratorium on drilling in the remote Yasuni national park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to two indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation. However, after not receiving enough pledges, and insisting that Ecuador alone would decide how the donations would be spent, President Correa declared he had to go ahead with drilling.
|According to the Corruption Perception Index 2013 from Transparency International, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries around the world using a score of 0-100 (where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is completely clean) Ecuador is ranked 102nd out of 177 countries assessed. It has scored a corruption index of 35, meaning it has a perception of relatively high corruption. The levels of perception of corruption has improved a little from 2012 where Ecuador was ranked 118 out of 174 countries with a corruption index of 32.|
|Transparency International's country profile on Ecuador|
|Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Index interactive map|
|The World Bank compiles a set of Worldwide Governance Indicators for all world economies. This country data report on Ecuador can be found in the full data set.|
About Forest Management
This section provides an overview of the country's forest management, transparency indicators, CITES Agreement information as it applies to the country, and relevant laws and regulations (i.e. forestry laws, processing/manufacturing laws, trade laws, tax laws, and transport laws).
Ecuador is a highly forested country, with an estimated 9.87 million hectares of forest cover (FAO, 2010) from a total land area of 27.7 million hectares, of which 17% is primary production forest. The Ecuadorian government estimated in 2009 that the total forest area was 11.2 million hectares. Ecuador is also considered one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries (Conservation International) and the Amazonian region in particular includes large tracts of intact natural forest of global conservation significance. Forest conversion to agriculture is the major driver of deforestation, followed by regional drivers including: agro-industry (oil palm), logging, mining and infrastructure development.
Officially, according to The State of the World's Forests report, 2014, there are 26,000 people employed in the forestry sector, making up 0.4% of the total labour force. Informal employment takes the number up to 73,000 (total including formal and informal sectors), which accounts for 1% of total labour force.
The Ministry of Environment have said that, as of 2013, 75,000 people working in the forestry industry have now registered with the new governmental online system - Sistema de Administración Forestal (Forestry Administration System).
The Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2010 for Ecuador indicates that only 2% of the forests in Ecuador are production forests as a primary designated function. The other 98% is made up from conservation of biodiversity (49%), protection of soil and water (24%) and multiple use (21%) are stated as the primary designed function of forest, with just 4% designated as unknown / none.
The main commercial species in the drier semi-humid forests in central areas and the south coast are Cordia alliodora (laurel), Pseudosamanea guachapele, Tabebuia spp and various Bombacacceae (eg, Ceiba and Bombax spp, and balsa - Ochroma lagopus).
The commercial species in the more humid northern part of the country include Protium and Dacryodes spp, Laureaceae, Brosimum utile, Inga spp, Pourouma chocoana and Ceiba pentandra (kapok).
The commercial wood fibre supply in the country is dominated by plantations. In 2011, the Ministry of Environment estimated that annual timber harvesting was 3 million m3, of which 2.2 million m2 came from plantations, an increase from the 1.8 million m3 in 2009. Of the remaining volume in 2011, half (ie 400,000m3) came from native forests and another 400,000m3 from secondary forest on land subject to disturbance (both manmade from developments or natural from landslides for example).
ITTO estimated that in the same year, the total authorised harvest of natural forests under the three licensing systems in Ecuador was between 400,000 - 500,000 m3 a year.
Pine and eucalyptus account for around half of production from plantations, with the other 50% comprising teak, balsa and other species including laurel, Schizolobium parahybum (pachaco), Huamansamana, Parkia multijuga (cutanga), Cedrelinga catenaeformis (chuncho) and Hyeronima alchornoides (mascarey).
The development of commercial plantations is a central component of Ecuador forest policy. In January 2013, the Ecuadorian government launched a new Commercial Forestry Incentives Programme backed by State investment of USD300 million in the first 5 years of the Programme. The goal was to plant 20,000 ha in 2013, and then 25,000 ha per year for the next 4 years to achieve a total of 120,000 ha. It gave priority to 17 tree species, both native and non-native, including cypress, eucalyptus, jacaranda and laurel.
Ecuador has a wide range of both finished and semi-processed wood for exportation for a number of end users and applications. The major wood types are soft and hardwoods and tropical species such as Chanul, colorado, seique, mascarey, tangare, Fernán Sánchez, jigua, higuerón, ceibo, sande, virola, teak, and guayacán or ironwood from various species of pine. These are all used for such end applications as peeled veneers for plywood production, cabinet-grade decorative veneers, plywood panels, cleated boards, particleboard (unveneered or faced with decorative wood laminates or melamine overlays), door frames, doors mouldings for construction and picture framing, parquet flooring, office and home furniture, kitchen cabinets and facings, wooden spoons for ice cream and tongue depressors.
In addition Ecuador is also the largest exporter of Balsa wood supplying over 95% of demand to over 45 countries for model making and industrial use. Balsa, a native species to Ecuador, is now widely grown in plantations due to rapid growth rates of the trees and strong international demand (increasingly so for wind turbine blades for the wind energy industry). It is exported as kiln dried sawn and planed blanks, veneers and laminates.
According to the Ministry of Environment, about 65% of harvested wood is destined for the commercial wood-processing sector. The dominant consumers of wood fibre are (in descending order) plywood, particleboard manufacturers, Balsa processors and producers of chips and pallets. There is little domestic paper manufacturing capacity.
The State of the World's Forests 2014 data set on Ecuador reports that US$563 million gross value added for wood processing, compared with US$856 million for roundwood production. The forest sector in total contributed 2.3% of GDP.
The main importers are the United States, the European Union, India (probably teak),China (mainly sawnwood), South Korea, Japan, and South American countries. The US has traditionally been Ecuador's main export market, mainly due to the trade in balsa; however, since 2009, Colombia and Peru have increasingly become more important in terms of trade exports, particularly in the particle board market.
According to a report by Rupert Oliver in 2013, Ecuador's timber products have increased from a low of US$177 million in 2009 to US$294 million in 2012. This is primarily due to the increase in exports of particle board to other South American countries, as well as recovery in exports of sawnwood and paper products.
About Forest Products
This section provides an overview of the country's forest production and product trade.
|AIMA Asociación Ecuatoriana de Industriales de Madera||Ecuador Wood Industry Association|
|ASOTECA Asociación Ecuatoriana de Productores de Teca y Maderas Tropicales||Ecuadorian Association for Teak and Tropical Wood Production|
|COMAFORS Corporación de Manejo Forestal Sustentable||Ecuador Sustainable Forest Management Corporation|
Civil Society Organizations
|Fundación Natura||Nature Foundation|
|ICAA - Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon||A long-term regional program created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which brings together and integrates the efforts of more than 30 partner organizations, both local and international, to strengthen conservation of the Amazon biome in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.|
|COICA - Coordinadora de las organizaciones indígenas de la cuenca amazónica||Co-ordination of nine national Amazonian indigenous organizations, including CONFENIAE|
|CONFENIAE - Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana||Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon|
|CEDA - Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental||Ecuadorian Center for Environmental Law|
This section provides a list of local contacts who can serve as sources of further information, including industry associations, civil society organizations and government ministries.
Tools & Resources
ITTO, 2011. Country profile of Ecuador - Blaser, J., Sarre, A., Poore, D. & Johnson, S. (2011). Status of Tropical Forest Management 2011. ITTO Technical Series No 38. International Tropical Timber Organization, Yokohama, Japan.
Oliver, R. (2013) Evaluation and scoping of EU timber importers & imports from South America, TRAFFIC International.
About Tools & Resources
This section directs you to useful and relevant tools and resources, developed by WRI, our partners or other organizations, that provide more information about the country.
Laws & Regulations
In 2008 the Ecuadorian people approved a Constitution that was the first in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature. The forests were declared fragile ecosystems, requiring special treatment like moors, wetlands and mangroves. The Ecuadorian Constitution, specifically Articles 10 and 71-74, recognizes the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, gives people the authority to petition on the behalf of ecosystems, and requires the government to remedy violations of these rights.
According to its Article 425, the Constitution has supremacy over all other laws, norms and regulations, both national and international.
Article 74 of the Constitution regulates environmental services to ensure that people, communities and indigenous groups have the right to benefit from the environment. It also states that “environmental services are not susceptible to appropriation; that their production, provision and use will be regulated by the National Government.” The Constitution guarantees the participation of indigneous peoples and communities in decision-making on activities to be carried out in their territories.
The Forestry and Conservation of Natural Areas and Wildlife law "Ley forestal y de Conservacion de Areas Naturales y Vida Silvestre", has been in effect since 1981 (Ley 74, publicada en el Registro Oficial No. 64 del 24 de agosto de 1981) and was amended in 2002. It outlines the powers and functions of the Ministry of Environment for forests as well as the control and mobilisation of forest products. The forestry component emphasizes forest management, production forests (native forests and plantations), forestry control and research.
Ecuador is currently formulating an updated forestry law.
In order to facilitate forest administration and use (both of State and private forests), the following classification has been established:
- Permanent state production forests,
- Permanent private production;
- Protective forests;
- Special areas including areas for research.
The National forest programme / statement "Texto Unificado de la Legislación Ambiental Secundaria" (Unified Text of Secondary Environmental Legislation of the Ministry of Environment (TULAS)) which was enacted in 2002, establishes the basic environmental policies of Ecuador and ensures coherence among public sector entities and the private sector in Ecuador in the identification and implementation of specific policies and strategies, policies and guidelines to achieve sustainable development.
The strategy for sustainable forest development in Ecuador (which came into effect in 2000) promotes conservation and the sustainable use of forests.
In 2011 the Under-Secretariat for Natural Heritage of the Ministry of Environment (MAE) published a document which explains and defines the Ecuadorian forest governance model. In 2012, the Secretariat for forest production at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries developed a national forestation and reforestation policy (Plan Nacional de Forestación y Reforestación), supported by the MAE, Ministerio de Industrias y Productividad (MIPRO - Ministry of Industry and Productivity) and Secretariá Nacional de Planificación y Desarrollo (SENPLADES - National Secretary of Planning and Development).
Executive Degree 931 February 2008 assigned responsibility of industrial plantations and agroforestry to the Ministry of Agriculture. It paved the way for the implementation of the 2012 National Forestation and Reforestation Plan, which committed the government to providing tax incentives and financial resources for the establishment of 750,000 hectares of commercial monoculture tree plantations.
In April 2000, the Executive Decree No. 346 introduced substantial changes to the pre-existing Law on Forestry and Conservation of Natural Areas and Wildlife. An especially important and innovative aspect of these reforms was to incorporate the following basic criteria for sustainable forest management into the legal framework for Ecuador's forestry sector:
- Sustainability of production;
- Maintenance of forest coverage;
- Conservation of biodiversity;
- Co-responsibility for management; and
- Reduction of negative environmental and social impacts.
It established simple requirements for the harvest and transport of timber, but doesn't cover the effectiveness of timber milling or promote reduced-impact logging.
The National Plan for Living Well (Buen Vivir) 2010 - 2013 established the development priorities, strategies and objectives of the government for its second term, including reducing the deforestation rate by 30% by 2013.
The Environmental Management Law (Ley no. 37, 1999) sets out principles and guidelines for environmental policy; determines the duties, responsibilities, levels of participation in the public and private sectors in environmental management and indicates the permissible limits, controls and sanctions in this matter.
Both the Forest Law (Art 39) and the Environmental Management Law state that indigneous and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples will have priority in the use of community lands and forest products, and that the local authorities must consult these peoples before issuing environmental policies and policies for demarcation, management or administration of conservation areas and ecological reserves.
The Biodiversity Law (Ley de Biodiversidad) focuses on the protection of the biodiversity of Ecuador including genetic and ancestral resources. The Biodiversity Law has been in force since September 10, 2004.
Various Ministerial Decisions have been developed including:
No. 244 - purpose is to establish regulations for sustainable forest management and use of dry forests, the recommended techniques, commitments and responsibilities in the implementation of plans, management, forest use and conservation of their environmental services.
No 39 - Standards for sustainable forest management for timber harvesting in rainforests.
No. 139 - Standards of administrative procedures to authorize the use and timber harvesting.
No. 40 - Rules for use of wood in cultivated forests and wood grown in agroforestry systems forests.
No. 128 - Standards for sustainable management of Andean Forests.
Harvesting in state production forests require the following: a forest inventory, the preparation of a forest management plan, the physical demarcation of concession limits, as well as social payments and payments for silvicultural treatments.
Executive Order No. 998 in 2005, "Declaration of State of Emergency regarding the Control and Monitoring of the Ecuadorian Forest Sector", (Declara en Estado de Emergencia el Control y la Supervisión de Sector Forestal Ecuatoriano) - this was renewed by Executive Order 1196 in 2006. Its main aim is to reduce the impact of deforestation and wildlife, through integrated forest monitoring to conserve and sustainably manage natural resources system.
Article 5 of the Forest Law 2002 states that promoting and implementing policies relating to the conservation, development, protection, research, management, processing and marketing of forest resources, as well as the natural areas and wildlife, are part of the functions and responsibilities of the Ministry of Environment.
Art. 62.- The Environment Ministry will also promote the improvement and control systems, harvesting, primary processing and industrialization of forest resources and wildlife.
The Forest Law also states (Art. 64) that primary processing establishments can only use authorised raw materials. Records must therefore be taken, and made available to the Ministry when requested to prove the legality of materials.
Article 47 of the Forest Law, 2002, the export of semi-finished forest products shall be authorized by the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Trade, Industrialization, Fisheries and Competitiveness only when the internal needs and minimum levels are found satisfied.
According to the Law on Forests and Conservation Areas of Nature and Wildlife "Ley forestal y de áreas naturales", Art. 82. states that whoever transports wood, wood forest products or wildlife products without adhering to the rules of the Act would receive a fine of between one to five times the general minimum wage and confiscation of the proceeds.
Art. 78. of the same law indicates that if anyone transports forest products or wildlife or different timber forest products from state or private mangrove forest areas without the relevant contract, license or authorization of use or if they transport beyond what is authorized, they shall be punished by a fine equivalent to the value of one to ten general minimum wages and confiscation of goods, tools, equipment, transportation and other instruments used in these actions under the terms of Art. 65 of the Penal Code and the Special Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Province of Galapagos.
The Facilitation Act Export and Waterborne Transport law relates to the export of all kinds of goods and services products. It is in place to promote and diversify exports through the application of mechanisms consistent with current international trade.
Article 1 of the 2002 Forest Law indicates that fees for investments in forest contracts, particularly for afforestation, are transferred to the Ministry of Environment.
Article 54 states that forest land covered by forests, natural protective vegetation or cultivated that are planted with a timber species or the formation of any kind of forests that meet the standards established in this Act, shall be exempt from tax on rural property. The National Estimates and Catastros, in making the assessment and determining the tax, apply that exemption.
Act 442 amends the regulations for implementation of rural land tax. It provides that land under forestry will not be subject to the payment of rural land tax.
CITES Agreement Information
CITES is an international agreement among governments whose purpose is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plant species does not threaten the survival of these species. 180 countries (September 2014) have agreed to be bound by CITES, which is a binding legal agreement. It is up to each Party to CITES to draft its own domestic legislation in order to comply with its CITES obligations. Ecuador acceded to the Convention in 1975.
Aniba rosaeodora is one of the commercially important sources of rosewood oil, which has led largely to its over-exploitation. Overharvesting has led to the listing of Aniba rosaeodora species in CITES. The CITES listing for Aniba rosaeodora applies to logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, plywood and essential oil (excluding finished products packaged and ready for retail trade). Finished products containing such extracts as ingredients, including fragrances, are not considered to be covered by CITES.
Importers of CITES-listed species into the United States can also use the handbook from APHIS. It contains a number of useful flowcharts and examples of permits so that importers can see what is needed.
A full contact list for official national CITES authorities, including Management Authorities competent to grant permits.
IUCN Red List: Information on Aniba rosaeodora
Laws & Regulations
This section provides a list of local contacts who can serve as sources of further information, including industry associations, civil society organizations and government ministries.