Intriguing Biodiversity at El Angel Ecological Reserve in Ecuador

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El Angel is a small village located in the province of Carchi, in Ecuador, approximately 170 km north of Quito and situated on the border with Colombia. The village is located in a unique type of high altitude, humid moorland called “paramo” characteristically found in the Andes of northern Ecuador and southern Colombia. The El Angel Ecological Reserve lies at nearly 12,000 to 15,600 feet above sea level and covers an area of 15,700 hectares of the paramo. A diverse range of plants grow in this region, 60% of which are found nowhere else in the world. The most notable among them is frailejones (Espeletia pychnophyla) a giant member of the daisy family, endemic to the area. The frailejon is a treelike shrub with broad, gray-white, hairy leaves and yellow flowers, which may reach a height of up to six feet over the course of its lifetime. They cover 85% of the reserve, lending the paramo of El Angel its striking appearance and gray-green color.

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The Paramo of El Angel remains frigid throughout the year even though it is only 80 km from the equator. In summer months (June - September), days can be warm - up to 18 ° C, but in the winter even in daytime the temperature is around 0° C. Due to the cold weather organic remnants in paramos do not decompose - they accumulate. The moist climate turns this all into a giant natural sponge, trapping moisture deposited by the regular rains and mists and letting it out slowly into the surrounding foothills in the form of streams and small rivers, which eventually join to make up the basin of the Mira and El Angel rivers.

Plants growing in the paramo have developed specific methods to protect themselves from the cold. One method is growing in rosettes, so the wind can not chill the centre of the plant. Many plants have developed very soft, "plumy" leaves and flowers which serve as mini-sponges. In some plants the old leaves do not fall off - they enclose the stem and allow development of new roots along the stem.

The reserve is also home to numerous animals including highlights, rainbow trout, the frog marsupial, the jambato, duck dotted, the condor, gli-gli coot, moor Partridge, the curiquingues, the Andean gull, the giant heath, the Quilico, deer, dirty, wild rabbits, the Chucuri, the brocket, the fox, the buzzer and the turtle and other species.

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Sources: Wondermondo, Ecuadornews, Ecostravel

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