Cerro Candelaria Reserve


See Nigel Simpson's article about his visit to Candelaria

One of the most exciting botanical discoveries in Ecuador has been the discovery by one of us (Lou Jost) of a completely unexpected local evolutionary radiation of the orchid genus Teagueia in the Upper Pastaza Watershed (see Teagueia species, Teagueia Explosion, and "Explosive local radiation of the genus Teagueia (Orchidaceae) in the Upper Pastaza Watershed of Ecuador" in the Lyonia online journal). This genus was thought to have only six species worldwide. In a tiny 20 km x 20 km area of the Upper Pastaza Watershed, Lou and his students (Andy Shephard, Scott Grossman, Pailin Wedell, and Ali Araujo) discovered 28-30 new species in this genus! DNA analysis performed by Mark Whitten, Kurt Neubbig, and Lorena Endara of the University of Florida-Gainesville, Erik Rothacker of Ohio State University, and Alec Pridgeon of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have revealed that all these species belong to a single lineage not very closely related to the other Teagueia species; in other words, there was a local explosion of speciation here in the Upper Pastaza Watershed, far exceeding the more famous local species radiations of the Galapagos islands. (The biggest plant radiation on the Galapagos is the Scalesia radiation discovered by Darwin, which includes 15 species scattered over all the islands.) Our discovery was recently highlighted in a Smithsonian exhibition in Washington D. C. from Jan-April 2009.

Some of the new Cerro Candelaria Teagueia species.


One single mountain in the Upper Pastaza Watershed, Cerro Candelaria, has 16 species of Teagueia on it, including several species not found anywhere else. It is the most important site for this Teagueia radiation, and it also contains many other rare new or recently described species, including the as-yet-undescribed smallest orchid in the world, a new species of Platystele discovered by one of us.
The world's smallest orchid. The black lines on the ruler at the lower edge of the photo are one millimeter apart.


Cerro Candelaria is a vast wilderness with Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, monkeys, eagles, and an unusually pristine paramo grassland at its upper end. With the help of the World Land Trust and its donors, we are building a reserve to protect this unique area, which borders Sangay National Park and which extends the protected area into the Upper Pastaza Watershed.
A young Black and Chestnut Eagle, Oroaetus isidori. Photo Luis Recalde (EcoMinga).


The size of this reserve is now about 2600 hectares ranging from 1800 m to 3800 m in elevation. The initial purchase was made possible by the donatio to World Land Trust by an environmentally-aware corporate sponsor, Puro Coffee, a UK fair-trade coffee company that gives 2% of its proceeds to conservation. Another very large corporate donation to World Land Trust by PriceWaterhouseCoopers is permitting us to expand the reserve to include new habitats. We are very grateful to them.


Cerro Candelaria is in the second tier of mountains facing the Amazon basin in the Upper Pastaza Watershed.


The original reserve begans here, to the left of the large stream, at about 1800 m elevation. We now own both sides.


This is a species of Centropogon from the lower part of the reserve at 1800 m. .


The reserve includes the ridges on the left, and extends above timberline to alpine grassland where this photo was taken.


This is the transition zone beween forest and grassland.


The summit of Cerro Candelaria is included in the reserve and can be partly seen through the clouds. There are endemic Teagueia orchids almost all the way to the top! These experience freezing temperatures every night.


This is the view north from our campsite near the top.


This is the highest point in our reserve, at 3680 meters or almost 12000 feet.

Our partners in the US and UK are the Orchid Conservation Alliance, the World Land Trust (US) and World Land Trust (UK). All are registered charities in their respective countries and donations made to them for EcoMinga are tax-deductible. We are also now participants in the Orchid Conservation Coalition's "1% for Conservation" program. Write these foundations directly to make donations, and write me for more information:

The World Land Trust received its funding for this project from Puro Coffee (UK), a fair trade coffee brand that supports rain forest conservation.


EcoMinga would like to thank the following organizations and people who have contributed to EcoMinga's land purchases or have supported scientific work related to EcoMinga:
World Land Trust and its donors, especially PricewaterhouseCoopers and Miko/Puro Coffee (Andy Orchard)
John and the late Ruth Moore
Dr. Malli and Vera Lee Rao
Dr. Steve Beckendorf and Cindy Hill
Dr. Nigel Simpson, O.B.E
South East Pennsylvania Orchid Society (SEPOS)
Jardin Botanique de Montréal
Orchid societies of the Bay Area, California
CEIBA Foundation
Wild Waters Foundation
Henri Botter and Ardy van Ooij
Orchid Growers Guild (Madison, WI)
Hilo Orchid Society, Hawaii
Pauline Brault
Atlanta Orchid Society
Marisol Villagomez
Dr. Anne Chao
John Little
Dr. Mary Gerritsen
Angela Mirro
Bryon K. Rinke
Sam Crothers
Canterbury School, Florida
Edward Keith
Barry Barker
Orchid Conservation Coalition
Centro de Estudios, Quito
Fundación Oscar Efrén Reyes (FOER)
Proyecto Conservación del Tapir Andino (Finding Species, Centro Ecológico Shanca Arajuno, Tapir Specialist Group-IUCN)
Mark Wilson

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