Dry seasonal forests in Ecuador are found in the dry inter-Andean valleys and at the Pacific coast starting at 0 south until the Peruvian border, covering an area of 47 260 km2.These forests show a strong climatic seasonality that produces the loose of leaves in almost all plant species. Ecuadorian dry forests are part of two very important hotspots the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena and the Tropical Andes.
These forests shelter an endemic flora, where 21% of the species at the Pacific Equatorial region are unique. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is the most threatened of the country. Regarding the Environmental National Ministry, since 1978 a legal declaration was established to protect the native flora and fauna species found at the Pacific dry areas below 1000 m. In reality, urbanization, intensive agriculture and selective cutting are the main causes for the transformation of dry forest into big cities, pastures and paddocks. Only 2.3% of the original extension of these forests is under protection.
The deforestation rates of these forests are high, in southern Ecuador where the best areas of dry forests are found, the deforestation rate is 30 km2/year. Recent studies show that deforestation and climate change will affect species composition and will lead many plants and animals to extinction.
The government and private NGOs join forces to protect dry forests, the Jerusalem Recreational Park shelters 1 110 ha. In the Ecuadorian coast, the Machalilla National Park protects 56 000 ha, the Arenillas Ecological Reserve protects 13 170 ha. In the Manabí province, Ceiba Foundation protects 200 ha, as some local communities that protect 500 ha. Nature and Culture International protects 40 000 ha of Tumbezian forest in Loja province. The Guayacanes reserve in Mangahurco and Cazaderos protects 15 000 ha. In south-west Ecuador at El Oro and Loja provinces, the Bosque Seco Biosphere Reserve protects 500 000 ha.
Despite these efforts the threaten to dry forest is still present, new conservation strategies are needed in order to preserve this unique ecosystem.