Forests in Ecuador: A Guide to Ecuador’s Four Ecosystems

Ecuador is one of the places on earth with the greatest biological diversity thanks to its special geography and location. Discover the four Ecuadorian ecosystems in this article.

What are the Ecosystems in Ecuador?

Ecuador is a tropical country that borders the Pacific Ocean, lies on the equator, and includes a portion of the Andes mountain range.

The Galapagos Islands and other distinctive features make this nation’s biodiversity among the highest in the world.

Here are the four ecosystems in Ecuador:

Mangrove Forests

Trail to Laguna de los Flamingos in Isabela Island, Galapagos

Mangrove forests are one of the marine ecosystems found along Ecuador’s Pacific coast. Mangroves can grow in salt water, and the vast majority of marine life finds a perfect nursery in their extensive root systems.

One-third of all marine species are born and raised in mangrove forests. Some species live in the mangroves their entire lives. Numerous reptile, mammal, and bird species can also find food and shelter in this special ecosystem.

Additionally, the mangroves offer shoreline protection, shielding the land from storm damage and erosion. Amazingly, the intricate root system, branches, and foliage absorb the harmful effects of wind and waves. They can even lessen a tsunami’s force by up to 90%! Mangrove forests are a must-visit if you are planning to travel to Galapagos.

Tropical Dry Forests

Hiking in Ecuadorian jungles

Tropical dry forests can be found along Ecuador’s Pacific coastline. From southern Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador into the Guayas, the Ecuadorian Dry Forests ecoregion stretches along the Pacific Coast southward before coming to an end at the Golfo de Guayaquil

The soil in tropical dry forests is nutrient-rich, and the plant life there is adapted to long stretches of hot, dry weather. Unexpectedly, a moist forest ecoregion surrounds the dry forest. 

These forests contain trees, most of which are deciduous, which lose their leaves during dry spells, allowing them to store moisture. Additionally, it permits sunlight to penetrate the forest floor, which encourages the development of dense underbrush. Compared to trees found in the rainforest, these trees have thicker bark, smaller/thicker leaves, thorns, and deeper roots.

Tropical Cloud Forests

Another pathway to Los Gomelos crater

One of Ecuador’s little-known treasures is the rare and stunning cloud forests that flank the eastern and western slopes of the Andes. Where the atmospheric conditions permit a continuous cloud cover, cloud forests develop in tropical or subtropical mountainous regions.

The trees in a cloud forest have a distinctive appearance; many of them are smaller and more gnarly than trees in other forests, adding to the ecosystem’s singularity. The trees are also covered in numerous mosses, ferns, bromeliads, and orchids.

Due to the high levels of moisture and little sunlight that it receives, the forest floor typically has a thick layer of moss covering it. These elements all work together to produce a fanciful, dreamlike effect. Even dwarf/elfin forests can be found in some of Ecuador’s tropical cloud forests.

Many people go bird watching in cloud forests. Ecuador’s cloud forests are well-known for the variety of bird species (including hummingbirds) that can be found there.

Tropical Rainforests

La Casona restaurant in Puyo, Ecuador

La Casona restaurant in Puyo, Ecuador

The world’s biodiverse region is thought to be the rainforest of Ecuador. The rainforests of Ecuador invade the human senses. In the humid, hot rainforest ecosystem, it rains almost every day.

Rainforests are extremely hot, muggy, and wet. They have a smell of mud, flowers, and leaves. The rains are surprisingly strong, and as dusk approaches, the volume increases even more.

The abundance of rain causes much of the organic compounds to be washed away before they can decompose, depleting the soil of nutrients. The material that is still there, though, decomposes quickly and provides nutrients for the astonishing variety of flora found in the rainforest.


The abundance of flora and fauna in Ecuador is because of its amazing biological diversity. It is no doubt that Ecuador is rich in natural resources and Ecuadorians are doing well in preserving them.

As you visit Ecuador, you will get to experience these different ecosystems. Be amazed by the natural wonders that Ecuador has to offer!

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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