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Rapid Ecological Assessment of the Proposed Northern Route of the OCP Heavy Crude Pipeline
The Mindo Working Group
April 10, 2001
Table of Contents
On 15 February 2001, the Ecuadorian government and Oleoductos de Crudos Pesados S.A. (OCP S.A.) signed a formal agreement to construct a pipeline to transport heavy oil from Lago Agrio in the Amazon basin to Esmeraldas on the Pacific coast. As part of the Agreement, OCP S.A. agreed to conduct an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) whose terms of reference describe a detailed analysis of the impacts of various proposed routes, each of which cross the Ecuadorian Andes.
In late February, individuals from the conservation and scientific communities were invited to review and comment on the draft Faunistic Section of the EIS. Their initial review pointed out a series of deficiencies that were thought to be serious enough to warrant further studies, particularly in the area recognized as the Mindo Important Bird Area (IBA). The 170,000 ha Mindo IBA includes a series of contiguous privately owned protected forests and supports some of the region´s richest biodiversity. In addition to the many endemic birds, amphibians and orchids found exclusively in the IBA, the 170,000 ha area hosts a number of globally threatened species. This wealth in biodiversity attracts 10,000s of nature tourists annually and the area is recognized as one of the top sites globally for wildlife watching. Even so, ecotourism in the area has only just started in the last decade and has a great potential for exponential growth.
OCP S.A. and Entrix Inc. agreed to contract the Mindo Working Group (MWG) to:
1) review and comment on the draft Faunistic Section of the EIS; and
2) to provide detailed information on the biodiversity along the proposed pipeline route through the Mindo IBA (Tramos 5 and 6) and make recommendations.
After reviewing the EIS, the MWG produced the following report that provides detailed information on the biodiversity of the area, comments on the proposed EIS as related to the fauna, and adds a series of recommendations for mitigating or negating immediate and longer-term damage to the area, should the northern route be selected for the construction of the heavy oil pipeline.
The purpose of this report is to further document the biodiversity of the area that would be traversed by the proposed northern oil pipeline route. The authors feel that it is fundamental that basic information be readily available and be made accessible to OCP S.A. and the public prior to any decision on route selection.
2.1 Rapid Assessment Team
A Rapid Assessment Team (or Mindo Working Group – MWG) was formed to identify and collect critical information necessary to complete the Faunistic Section of the Environmental Impact Study (Section 3.3). The rapid nature of the work required the mobilization of experts available both in Ecuador and internationally. This expertise consists of scientists with considerable experience in avifauna, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, botany, geology, Environmental Impact Studies (EIS), ecotourism and Geographic Information System (GIS) interpretation.
2.2 Focal Study Area
The Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) focused primarily on the area where the proposed heavy oil pipeline would cross the Mindo IBA (see Appendix D, Map 1). The Entrix Inc. EIS refers to this area as Tramos 5 and 6 in the EIS. Our final recommendations broaden the scope by looking at issues of the EIS regarding the proposed northern pipeline route in its entirety
2.3 Project Duration
The MWG was given 9 working days (April 2-10) to compile, analyze and synthesize the available information. The MWG recognized the limitations of such a schedule but agreed to secure as much information on the area as possible, and make relevant comments and recommendations to OCP S.A. and Entrix Inc. on the draft Faunistic Section of the EIS.
2.4 Background Information
Information for this report was collected through:
a) interviews with knowledgeable people living and/or working in the Mindo region
b) field surveys along critical sections of Tramos 5 and 6
c) literature review
d) consultations with individuals at Quito's Escuela Politécnica
Entrix Inc. provided the following information:
a) Digital SPOT image of the Mindo IBA
b) Hard copy of the land-use map for the Mindo IBA (1:75,000)
c) Draft copies of sections 3.2 (Botanic Section) and 3.3 (Faunistic Section) of their EIA, and incomplete copies of sections of 5, 7ª, 7b, and 8 which were released for last minute review.
d) ArcInfo files on the position of the proposed 'northern pipeline route' through the Mindo IBA
e) Digital copy of the EIS Table of Contents
2.5 Avifaunal, Herpitological, Floral and Habitat Field Surveys
Avifaunal field surveys were conducted from April 3 to 8, 2001 along five selected transects of the proposed pipeline route. These five transects were pre-selected as potentially important for wildlife (especially avifauna) based on past field experience in the area. For each transect, 5 point counts were made before 08:00 from points 200-300 mts apart, and birds heard or observed were noted. The first point count was initiated at dawn and lasted 30 minutes. The dawn chorus was tape-recorded during this time and tapes were later played back to identify previously undetected species. The remaining four point counts were each 15 minutes long. Following the point counts, observers walked slowly through the transect for six hours during the rest of the day, observing additional bird species.
A rapid survey of reptiles and amphibians was carried out on the 6th and 7th of April 2001 along the proposed OCP S.A. route between Loma San Jose and Mindo Lindo. This area corresponds to sections 021, 022 and 023 in Tramo 5, and section 024 of Tramo 6 of the route, as referred to in the Entrix Inc. study (Section 3.3). Night searches were conducted from 1800-2400 hours at six sites along the road from San Jose to San Tadeo. Day searches were made in a section of secondary forest north of the road at site no 1 (table 1), in the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve south of point 4 and in forest at Mindo Lindo. About two hours were spent at each site. A list of the sites surveyed with GPS references are given below. These sites fall on an altitudinal transect from Mindo Lindo at about 1750 m to San Jose at 2400 m. Examples of all species captured were photographed and calls of the frogs were recorded. Many frog species were identified on the basis of their calls by referring to a database of sound recordings compiled by the author (Morley Read). Several species remain unidentified. Color photographs were obtained and the sound recordings will be deposited in the British Museum National Sound Archive (NSA).
The rapid floral survey focused on orchids, and consisted of three visits, each lasting a single day. The first visit was to the sections of the proposed pipeline route where it crosses the old Nono-Mindo road at about 2000 m, once between Nono and Tandayapa and again between Tandayapa and Santa Rosa. The second visit began at Guarumos and investigated the pipeline cut heading west from there (over Cerro El Castillo and the virgin forests affected by the pipeline route). The third visit investigated this same segment of the proposed pipeline cut, but starting at its east end where it rejoins the old Nono-Mindo road. The end points of the second and third visit overlapped, so the entire segment between Guarumos and the San Jose area was surveyed. On each visit the trees were actively searched for orchids in the genus Lepanthes, and vouchers were collected. In addition other orchids were identified to genus level, and those from monographed genera were identified to species whenever possible.
Observations on other fauna (mammals) and habitat were recorded during transect work. Photos of habitat types were taken along each of the five selected transects in the area of influence of the proposed oil pipeline route.
2.6 Mapping Species of Concern (Globally Threatened Species)
A land use map of the Mindo IBA was edited (1:50,000) to identify key habitat types and served as a base for field work (Appendix D, Map 1). This map is based on aerial photographs taken in 1996 and illustrates the extensive tracts of montane forest that still exist in the area.
Globally Threatened Species are defined according to definitions used by BirdLife and IUCN (Stattersfield and Capper 2000):
Critically Endangered: A species is critically endangered when it is facing an extreme risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
Endangered: A species is endangered when it is not critical but is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
Vulnerable: A species is vulnerable when it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
Near-threatened: Species which are close to qualifying as Vulnerable.
Maps are provided for eight selected Globally Threatened Species (Maps 2 – 9). The maps focus on the area directly influenced by the proposed pipeline route between Cruz Loma in the east to Mindo Lindo in the west. The maps show the theoretical distribution of select species based on known altitudinal limits, as well as areas where the species have been recorded in the past five years.
The species mapped are, in taxonomical order:
1. Baudo Guan, Penelope ortoni (vulnerable) (Map 2)
2. Dark-backed Wood-Quail,Odontophorus melanonotus (vulnerable) (Map 3)
3. Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Glaucidium nubicola (vulnerable) (Map 4)
4. Black-breasted Puffleg, Eriocnemis nigrivestis (critical) (Map 5)
5. Giant Antpitta, Grallaria gigantea (endangered) (Map 6)
6. Moustached Antpitta, Gralleria alleni (endangered) (Map 7)
7. Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Cephalopterus penduliger (vulnerable) (Map 8)
8. Tanager Finch, Oreothraupis arremonops (vulnerable) (Map 9)
The distribution of 22 Chocó endemic and restricted range species was studied and mapped (Map 10 - 11). The summary map of Globally Threatened Species identifies recent sightings, including those made during this study as part of the Rapid Environmental Assessment (Map 12).
Sightings of species (on Maps 2 – 12) are biased towards observations made along the Nono-Tanayapa-Mindo road. The latter is the most frequently visited section of the Mindo IBA by birdwatchers and therefore there is a large amount of data on the avifauna in the forests and other habitats along this road.
It should also be noted that areas shown on Maps 2 – 9 identify species' altitudinal ranges and not necessarily their current distribution. More precisely, the areas identified in Maps 2 – 9 identify possible areas where the species might occur. These are areas where one might expect to find the species, provided their habitats (as well as other known or unknown requirements) are available. Further modeling is required to fine-tune these maps and to identify the specific habitats in which the species currently occur. However, mapped sightings on the same maps provide some indication of species location in relation to the proposed pipeline. In cases like the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, most of its lowland habitat has been cleared and therefore the recent discovery of a lek (one of the very few so far encountered in Ecuador) near the pipeline route is of high importance for the conservation of this species. This site is one of the very few in the Mindo IBA where this species has been encountered (in spite of a larger potential range as indicated on Map 8). The following section provides details on the background information used for each map:
Land use map of the Mindo IBA (1:50,000): interpretation of IGM 1996 aerial photos. The map was produced by CECIA (Ecuadorian Ornithological Foundation) and re-edited for the purposes of this study.
Maps 2 – 9:
Known sightings and Predicted Altitudinal Range Distribution of Endangered Species (for 8 species): we plotted theoretical altitudinal ranges vs. known sightings using Instituto Geografico Militar (IGM) topographical maps.
Maps 10 – 11:
Known sightings of Choco Endemic Bird Species as defined by BirdLife in the recent publication “Endemic Birds of the World” (Stattersfield et al. 1995).
All recent sightings of 18 species that are Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near-threatened (based on IUCN/ BirdLife Criteria by Stattersfield and Capper (2000)). Sightings are concentrated in several well-surveyed areas along the proposed pipeline.
Critical Areas Map (based on the Avifauna results). This map identifies areas of greatest conservation and ecotourism value within the direct zone of influence of the proposed pipeline route. These are areas which have high concentrations of species of concern (forested areas, with known territories for a high percentage of species of concern). Much of this is based on extensive knowledge in specific areas along the proposed pipeline route.
3.1 Species Surveys
3.1.1 Avifaunal Surveys
During 5 days of field surveys, 237 species were recorded along the proposed pipeline route (Tramos 5 and 6) (Appendix A). Over 450 species have been recorded in the Mindo IBA (Appendix G). The results of the survey indicate that there is a tremendous avifaunal diversity along the pipeline route. One critically threatened species, the Black-breasted Puffleg, was found on the proposed pipeline route near Cerro Loma (Appendix D, Map 6). Additional Threatened, Near-threatened and Vulnerable species were heard or seen at various points along the proposed pipeline route (cf. species list in Appendix A and map in Appendix D, Map 12).
22.214.171.124 Select species accounts (Globally Threatened species)
BLACK-BREASTED PUFFLEG Eriocnemis nigrivestis: One of only ten strictly Ecuadorian avian endemics, and one of the three most CRITICALLY ENDANGERED bird species in the country (in addition to Atlapetes pallidiceps and Ognorhynchus icterotis). All recent records of this species are from the northwestern slopes of the Pichincha massif. No recent surveys have been done, but the population is currently estimated to consist of maximum 250 individuals. Knowledge on this Ecuadorian endemic species´ ecology, movements and natural history is scant at best, and a thorough study on this species' spatial and seasonal distribution, as well as its ecological requirements, is urgently needed. Recent determination of habitat with a small population of this species on Cruz Loma and adequate habitat along two stretches of ridge-top vegetation between Cerro El Castillo and Loma La Bola are of extreme importance.
HOARY PUFFLEG Haplophaedia lugens: A Chocó endemic, with several recent sightings from the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve. Classified as globally NEAR-THREATENED by BirdLife International/IUCN.
GREATER SCYTHEBILL Campylorhamphus pucheranii: A highly localized and rare Andean species, recently found along the proposed OCP S.A. route along the Cerro El Castillo ridge. The only other west slope records in Ecuador are from nearby Bellavista (a sight record in the eighties), and from above Santo Domingo (historical record, region now largely deforested). Highly sensitive to deforestation. Classified as globally NEAR-THREATENED by BirdLife International/IUCN.
LONG-WATTLED UMBRELLABIRD Cephalopterus penduliger: With the massive deforestation which has taken place across much of western Ecuador during the past half-century, the Long-wattled Umbrellabird has become very much rarer and more local, with especially lowland occurrences having become unusual. Even its foothill/lower montane habitat is suffering from continuous deforestation. A lek of this species was recently found in forest within 200 m from the proposed OCP. Males have been seen foraging in fruiting trees right alongside the proposed OCP S.A. route. This range-restricted flagship species is of high economic value (ecotourism) to the area as the above mentioned lek is the only one known in the Mindo IBA, and is highly vulnerable to hunting and disturbance. Any building of access roads, excess noise, tree/forest clearing and habitat fragmentation near the lek could have disastrous impacts on the continued existence of the lek and the species' presence in this area. Alternatives should be analysed and local deviations of OCP S.A. route in this area should be considered. After completion of the proposed pipeline construction, access to any hunters should be totally restricted, and the forest containing the lek should be purchased and protected as a reserve. Classified as globally VULNERABLE by BirdLife International/IUCN.
GIANT ANTPITTA Grallaria gigantea: Several territories of this species are known within the zone of influence of the proposed OCP S.A. route, and there has been a recent sighting in Reserva La Sorpresa (this record is not shown on the species map). Classified as globally ENDANGERED by BirdLife International/IUCN.
MOUSTACHED ANTPITTA Grallaria alleni: This species, previously only known as a highly localized Colombian endemic, was only first discovered in Ecuador in 1990 (Krabbe & Coopmans 1999, Ibis 142 (2): 183-187), and it is known in the country only from a handful of localities. In the Mindo IBA it is found between 1800 and 2200 m, and a number of territories of the species have been inventoried in the area. The proposed pipeline route passes very close to one of these, located along the northern boundary of the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve. Classified as globally ENDANGERED by BirdLife International/IUCN.
YELLOW-BREASTED ANTPITTA Grallaria flavotincta: This Chocó endemic is known from a very narrow elevation range. In the Mindo IBA it is found between 1600 and 2200 m. The proposed OCP S.A. route cuts through several territories of this sensitive species between Finca San Luis and San Tadeo. Until fairly recently this species was merely considered a race of G. hypoleuca, hence the fact that it was not categorized as threatened by BirdLife International/IUCN. Recently though endangered status from an Ecuadorian perspective was proposed for this species (IUCN, in prep.).
TANAGER FINCH Oreothraupis arremonops: There are only three known territories of this highly localized species in Ecuador, all of which lie within 2200 and 2400 m on the west slope of the Andes, in the area between Bellavista and Santa Rosa. The proposed OCP S.A. route cuts right through the middle of two of these three territories, while the third territory still lies in the zone of influence of this route (within 1 km). A historical record of this species comes from nearby Cerro El Castillo. Outside of this small area, the species is currently only protected in four parks/reserves in Colombia. Classified as globally VULNERABLE by BirdLife International/IUCN. We consider the species to be endangered from an Ecuadorian perspective.
3.1.2. Reptiles and Amphibians
A list of the species found during this study is given in Table 2. A total of 15 species were documented. This compares with just six species observed directly during the Entrix Inc. study (those recorded at point M3). Note that most of the records in the present study are of amphibians (frogs and toads), and that only one reptile species was found. In a short survey it is easy to document the highly vocal frogs and toads, but reptiles, especially snakes, are not vocal and usually have low population densities. Therefore it would require a much longer time in the field to compile an adequate reptile list. Entrix Inc. list 16 amphibians and 15 reptiles from sections 021, 022 and 023. It appears that this list is based on Lynch (1997) and not on their own field work. Three species not on the Entrix Inc. list were found during the present study. These are Hyla carnifex, Eleutherodactylus cf. pyrrhemerus, and Eleutherodactylus eugeniae. Note that the species identifications given here are somewhat preliminary. More precise identifications would require examination of museum specimens and a complete literature survey, which was beyond the scope of the limited time available for the study. Four species of Eleutherodactylus remain unidentified. The identification of Eleutherodactylus species is notoriously difficult as most are small in size and similar in appearance. It is easy to make errors. For this reason it is essential to have vouchers, either museum specimens or as in this study, photographs and sound recordings of the calls heard. Photographs were taken for the following species captured in this study: Eleutherodactylus appendiculata, E. eugeniae, E. cf. phyrromerus and Anolis sp. 1.
The photographs of Centrolene grandisonae, E. achatinus, E. quinquagesimus and E. sp. 4 were taken on a previous study at sites about 5 km to the north of the present study area.
TABLE 2. AMPHIBIAN AND REPTILE SPECIES RECORDED DURING THE STUDY
BUFONIDAE - TOADS
CENTROLENIDAE - GLASS FROGS
Centrolenella sp. (4)
HYLIDAE - TREE FROGS
LEPTODACTYLIDAE - LEPTODACTYLIDS
Eleutherodactylus cf. pyrrohemerus
Eleutherodactylus sp. (4)
Eleutherodactylus sp. (5)
Eleutherodactylus sp. (9)
Eleutherodactylus sp. (11)
POLYCHROTIDAE - ANOLES
Anolis sp. 1
Anolis sp. 1 (Anole)
Apparently this species is very common as eight individuals were observed roosting at night on roadside vegetation from 1-2m off the ground.
Centrolene grandisonae (Grandison's Glass Frog)
A red-spotted, bright green centrolenid. An inhabitant of secondary vegetation above small water courses and swampy areas. This species was not common in the transect - calling was heard only at point 4. The altitudinal range at this point is given as 1140 - 1850 m (Quinquango et al.).
Centrolenella sp. (4) (Glass Frog)
Heard calling from high in the trees above small watercourses crossing the road in forested areas. Apparently a common and widespread species. Altitudinal range probably 1200 -2400m.
Gastrotheca sp (Marsupial frog)
Several individuals heard calling in the late afternoon and at night at sites 1 and 2. Also heard at Bellavista. This is a large green treefrog that carries its eggs in a pouch on its back. Probably locally common at altitudes above 2400 m.
A small yellow tree frog. Two or three individuals were heard calling from a shallow ditch 100 m west of site 1. Altitudinal range 1200 - 2200m (personal observations).
To judge by the amount of calling this species is extremely common below 2,000m. This is a colonizing species, absent from forest and reaching high densities in open disturbed areas such as pastures. It was not heard above 2000 m. Entrix Inc. however records it at point 021 (2400 m) which is unlikely. Quinquango et al. gives a altitudinal range from sea level to 1800 m.
An unmistakable and bizarre looking frog with a pointed snout and spines on the upper eyelid. One frog was captured calling by day on a mossy bank in the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve near point 4 and many were heard at site 7. Entrix Inc. suggest this species as an indicator of forest. However it is not an exclusively forest dwelling species as many were heard calling in a pasture at site 4 more than 100m from the forest edge. It would better be regarded as an indicator of mossy forest between 1460 and 2800 m, particularly in areas receiving much mist precipitation. The call of this frog is the characteristic daytime chirp heard in such areas.
Eleutherodactylus cf. pyrrohemerus
Two individuals of this dumpy frog with red flash marks in the groin were found active on the forest floor by day near Site 1. The call of this species was not heard. The identification is tentative as this frog was not identical to individuals observed by the author at a site near the Río Bravo, 5 km north of the study area.
One individual was heard calling at site 2 (2400 m). As this species calls mainly at dusk it was probably missed from the other sites that were visited later on. Range: 1400 – 2700 m (Quinquango et al.).
Eleutherodactylus sp. (4) (Dink Frog)
This is one of the "dink" frogs, and is common from 2200 m upwards. The species might be E. verecundus, but a more definite identification would require examination of museum material. This common forest species occurs in localised pockets where many individuals are heard calling together. Males call in thick vegetation where they are difficult to observe.
Eleutherodactylus sp. (5)
The frog producing this call has not been seen. Nevertheless this call, a high pitched click, has been documented at sites near the Rio Mindo 5 km to the south. The call is usually heard coming from the vicinity of bromeliads.
Eleutherodactylus sp. (9)
The call is a series of bell like notes. The frog producing this call was not tracked down. Heard at sites 5 and 6. Population densities are probably low, but this species is easy to monitor because of the loud call.
Dink Frog - This is the other "dink" frog. It has a lower altitudinal range, from 2,200m downwards. It has a sharper call, and it calls from exposed positions in vegetation 1.5 – 2 m off the ground. Two specimens were captured and observed. According to Quinquango et al. the lower limit for this species is 1700 m.
Eleutherodactylus sp. (11)
A call consisting of a series of chirps was heard both by day and at night at sites 1 and 3. The calls came from the forest floor, particularly from thick vegetation and leaf litter around tree roots. The call was only provisionally assigned to a Eleutherodactylus, but instead it could possibly be made by a bufonid. It is evidently a high altitude species as Niels Krabbe tape-recorded this call at 2750 m where it seems to be more abundant.
Bufo marinus (Cane Toad, Giant Toad)
This is a large warty toad. It is a tropical species which reaches high densities in open cultivated areas and is absent from forest. One individual was heard calling at site 6 in a muddy ditch beside the main road. At 1800 m this is probably the upper limit of its range. Entrix Inc. however records it as calling at points 017 and 018. This is likely to be an error as these sites are at 2780 and 2400 m respectively.
Referring to Table 2 it can be seen that most species show clear altitudinal zoning. Species reaching their upper elevation include Eleutherodactylus achatinus which was recorded from site 4 (2000 m) downward. Eleutherodactylus sp. 5 and Bufo marinus reach their upper limits at sites 5 (1900 m) and 6 (1800 m) respectively. Species whose lower limit occurs in the transect include Eleutherodactylus sp. (4) which was heard in sites 1 and 2 (2200 – 2400 m). It was also recorded at 2750 m (tape recording by Niels Krabbe). Eleutherodactylus sp. (11) has a similar high altitude distribution, being found from site 3 (2100 m) upwards to 2750 m (Niels Krabbe recording).
TABLE 2. SPECIES DISTRIBUTION BETWEEN SITES
These sites were situated along an approximately eight km long transect running from point 2 (Loma San Jose, at 2400 m) to point 6 (San Tadeo, at about 1850 m). 'C' indicates voice record, the number indicates the number of individuals observed. Site 7 (Mindo Lindo) is not included as it was only searched by day and only one species (E. appendicularis) was recorded.
Entrix Inc. lists five endemic species: Eleutherodactylus appendiculata, E. floridus, E. illiotus, Anolis proboscis and Osonophryne cf. talipes. Two of these, O. cf. talipes and Anolis proboscis, are local endemics with a very restricted range, the other three species are regional endemics, having a wider range in northwestern Ecuador. Each species is restricted to a narrow altitudinal range, and to a certain habitat type within this range, e.g. in the case of E. appendiculata it is mossy forest. This type of forest is now severely fragmented in northwestern Ecuador and any further habitat destruction could lead to the disappearance of these populations.
There are three endemic pit vipers in the area (data from William Lamar; pers. comm.). Bothrops osbornei and Bothriopsis punctata (at lower elevations) are local endemics. Bothrophias cambelli has a wider range and is known as far south as El Oro, but nearly all specimens are from Mindo. Pit vipers generally occur at very low population densities and require large areas of primary forest to maintain viable populations. Any alteration to the forest from proposed pipeline construction is likely to affect their populations.
Several frog genera, most notably Colostethus and Atelopus, have suffered a drastic decline in populations over the last ten years and many species once common are now thought to be extinct. This decline has occurred principally in the Andes, and species below 1200 m elevation are not thought to have been affected. This phenomenon is part of the worldwide decline in amphibian populations, which has attracted the attention of biologists since the 1980's. Amphibian populations have declined in many parts of the world, even in areas where the habitat is apparently intact. It is thought to be due to general environmental deterioration, climatic changes, increase in UV-B levels or emerging infectious diseases (chytrids and iridoviruses), or a combination of these factors. Schuett and Handley (2001 in press) give a recent review.
The following species of Colostethus have been recorded from the Mindo area (Coloma 1995): Colostethus awa (265 - 1220m; Mindo, Los Bancos, Puerto Quito), Colostethus chensis (600 – 1540 m; 3.5km NE Mindo), Colostethus maquipucuna (2390 m; 9.4 km SW Tandayapa), and Colostethus talamancae (200 – 800 m; km 113 along the Quito- Puerto Quito road). Coloma (1995) states that it has become increasingly obvious that population sizes have declined dramatically in the last decades. Of the four species mentioned, severe population declines have been noted for Colostethus awa and repeated efforts to find Colostethus maquipucuna since 1987 have been unsuccessful.
Atelopus spp. have suffered similar declines. It is of utmost importance to determine the status of the endemic Atelopus mindoensis. Both Atelopus and Colostethus reproduce in mountain streams. The tadpoles of Atelopus in particular are adapted to life in fast flowing, well-oxygenated water. The construction of the proposed pipeline will inevitably cause considerable sedimentation of streams and rivers in the watersheds it passes through. Such disturbance could easily lead to the extinction of any populations of Atelopus and Colostethus that still survive in the area. In this respect it is important to note that the watersheds of the Río Mindo and the Río Alambí are some of the few remaining watersheds on the west slope in northwestern Ecuador.
References: see appendix B
Species found during this survey in the genus Lepanthes were extremely surprising. Most remarkable was what appears to be a new species, seemingly most closely related to L. elaminata. This species begins to appear on the ridgeline at about E 0758300, N 9996500 and continues eastward until the west flank of Cerro El Castillo, at elevations between 2400 and 2600 m. The taxonomic specialist in the genus Lepanthes, Dr Carl Luer, is currently examining the specimens. It appears never to have been found elsewhere, in spite of the fact that Pichincha province is the most thoroughly collected province in Ecuador. This suggests that the species has a very restricted distribution.
Another surprise was the discovery of L. jostii on the ridgeline, beginning at the same point as the new species cited above and continuing eastward until the east slope of Cerro El Castillo. This species was previously known only from one small area (<1 sq. km) above Baños, Tungurahua province, on the east slope of the Andes. The population found along the proposed pipeline route is the only population known from the west slope of the Andes. As mentioned above, Pichincha province is the most thoroughly collected province in Ecuador, so it seems likely that this species is genuinely rare in the area. The ridgeline population discovered here may be unique in the western Andes.
Among the other species of Lepanthes collected was L. brachypogon, endemic to northern (primarily northwestern) Ecuador. The remainder were common and widespread species. Among the other species present were at least three species of Dracula: Dracula sodiroi, Dracula vampira, and a third species which has not yet flowered and so far remains unidentified. Dracula sodiroi was present in enormous numbers. Dracula vampira is endemic to Pichincha and Imbabura provinces in a narrow elevation band from 1800-2500 m (Luer 1993). It is much sought after for export and is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN (Valencia et al 2000). Dracula sodiroi is endemic to Carchi, Imbabura, and Pichincha provinces at elevations of 1500-2500 m and is also classified as Vulnerable. Other relatives of Dracula and Lepanthes found during the surveys include Porroglossum muscosum, Masdevallia angulata, Masdevallia cuculata, and Pleurothallis bicruris. Additionally there were many species of Stelis, several Platystele, several Trichosalpinx, and many other Pleurothallis species.
The subtribe Oncidiinae was very well represented on the narrowest ridges. Unfortunately very few species were in flower during the surveys. There were members of the cimiciferum group of the genus Cyrtochilum, and numerous Odontoglossum cirrhosum. There were also some nonflowering plants that appeared to be Otoglossum brevifolium. Brachtia andina was common. Among the other genera found were Pseudocentrum, Sobralia, Gomphichis, Elleanthus, Epidendrum, Encyclia, and very many species of Maxillaria.
The ridgeline between (and including) Loma El Campanario and Cerro El Castillo has an extraordinary abundance of orchids, both in terms of numbers of individuals and numbers of species. The use of Lepanthes species as indicators shows that this ridgeline is floristically somewhat different from any other known ridgeline in the western Andes, since neither L. jostii nor the potentially new species have been found elsewhere in the west. It is of course possible that these species may occur on other similarly oriented ridges that have never been visited by botanists. However, surveys of some similar-elevation ridges in Maquipucuna Reserve, in the “Reserva Orquideólogica El Pahuma”, and in the “Reserva Otonga” (all in northwestern Ecuador) found neither of these species.
As part of the survey methodology, observations of other wildlife species were recorded. Due to the very short period of 2-4 days, observers mainly identified a number of smaller mammal species. However, the only notable sightings were of the remains of a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) on the north side along the ridge leading from Cerro El Castillo. The Spectacled Bear is considered endangered in Ecuador and throughout its range (Tirira 2001). It is likely that bears use the ridges as corridors between habitats throughout the Mindo IBA. Mammal checklists for two localities in the area attached in Appendix F.
3.2 Spatial and Temporal Analysis
To assess the ecological dynamics and the biodiversity of an area, it is important to understand the landscape components on a global, regional, and local scale. A global assessment of a given area entails broad-scale analysis and measurement at the levels of the biotope (areas with uniform biological conditions). A regional assessment would focus on one or more ecosystems (e.g., riverine systems), while local assessment includes sampling and inventorying within ecosystems, protected areas, and watersheds with focus on habitat, micro-habitat, and niches.
Due to the limited time available for this study, spatial analyses were restricted to mapping of eight species (refer to maps in Appendix D: Maps 2 - 9) at the local level. Additional maps (refer to maps Maps 10 – 12) provide an analysis of the range of important avian species.
One of the most surprising outcomes of the mapping of the distribution and habitats of the threatened species is the absolutely critical importance of the area of forest preserved between Finca San Luis and Santa Rosa. This zone lies between 2150 and 2300 m, not only at the upper elevational limit for many of the threatened species, but also the only elevational zone in which the Threatened Tanager Finch is found. Two of three territories of this species currently known in Ecuador lie in this forest area. Judging by aerial maps this is the only forested corridor in this elevation range connecting the more extensive forests above Nanegalito with those above Mindo (Appendix D, Map 12). Considering these factors, it is of critical importance to the continued survival of the Tanager Finch, and for gene flow in threatened species in general, that this area receives the utmost protection. It is important to note that the nearby virgin forests of Cerro El Castillo, while providing very important habitat for higher elevation species, large mammals and orchids, are at too high an elevation for many of the Chocó endemics (such as the Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium nubicola) and threatened species (such as Moustached Antpitta Grallaria alleni).
Mapping of the area between Guarumos and Cruz Loma, shows that much of the habitat in the area has been destroyed. There is little remaining habitat above 2800m suitable for the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg (Appendix D, Map 5). This makes the recent observations by various ornithologists of this species in this area even more important, with the risk of extinction due to interference by the proposed pipeline construction even greater than originally expected. The Black-breasted Puffleg was found at 3100 m, in an upper extension from the likely unsuitable forested zone lower down. While the projected route of the proposed pipeline passes through pasture slightly above this patch, the risk is extreme due to the probably destruction of this refuge by the construction of the access road through its limited habitat (below Cruz Loma). The mapping clearly shows that an alternative route has to be found to minimise the risk of global extinction of this species. The other area for concern for this species is the Loma La Bola area in the Cerro El Castillo highlands. This area of low scrub along the narrow ridge, seemingly good habitat (at least seasonally) for this species, will definitely be destroyed during construction.
Interpretation of the IGM 1:60,000 scale aerial photographs taken in 1990 and 1996 shows that an area along the proposed pipeline route west of San Tadeo and the Calacalí-La Independencia highway cleared prior to 1990 had partially re-grown. This is due primarily to the existence of larger trees within the pasture aiding regeneration. Forest preserved within the east-west gullies and a remnant forest of 55 hectares, have served as a refuge for the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, and the second lek for Ecuador has recently been found here (Appendix D, Map 8). This area is of clear conservation importance, and although the area at first appears marginal habitat, it remains the refuge for this globally Threatened and flagship species.
3.3. Critically Sensitive Areas
Sensitive areas are defined as areas of high importance due to their rich biodiversity and/or high degree of endemism. These areas generally support one or more globally threatened species, represent intact ecosystems, are potential refugias, are susceptible to landscape alteration and in many cases support healthy populations of endemic species (refer to Maps in Appendix D, Map 13). Those areas outlined below are not the only areas of environmental concern, but are those whose protection are most critical to the continued existence of many of the endangered bird and amphibian species present within the Mindo IBA. They are also critical to the communal health of the Mindo IBA as a whole, and to the economic and ecotourism potential of this area.
AREA 1: CRUZ LOMA (3100-3250 m)
An area characterized by cattle pastures, cultivated land and patches of temperate shrubbery and stunted forest, the latter natural habitats are nonetheless of critical importance for the survival of the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg. Any destruction of natural vegetation in this area may have a negative impact on this species' survival and overall population.
AREA 2: CERRO EL CASTILLO AND VICINITY (2300-2750 m):
Largely primary forest, important for large mammalian fauna (especially Spectacled Bear), and very vulnerable to creation of access to hunters and woodcutters. Very high biodiversity in both floristic and faunal components. In addition, a number of avian Chocó endemics and threatened and near-threatened species are found. Two stretches along the very narrow crests may be seasonally important for the critically endangered Eriocnemis nigrivestis. The proposed pipeline construction along the narrow ridges holds a severe risk of erosion and consequent siltation of the Río Mindo and Río Alambi hydrological basins. Any oil spills, either due to natural (seismic and other) causes or due to any terrorist actions, can have severe impacts on the natural environment of the Mindo IBA, and could have disastrous effects on ecotourism in the area, either directly or indirectly (the latter through cancellations of bookings, long-term perceived effects etc.).
AREA 3: FINCA SAN LUIS AREA TO RESERVA LA SORPRESA (2150-2300 m):
This area consists of a mosaic of primary, selectively logged and secondary forests, interspersed with patches of cattle pasture. At a lower elevation than area 2, this area holds a higher percentage of avian Chocó endemics and Threatened and Near-Threatened species. The most sensitive species in this area is the above mentioned Tanager Finch Oreothraupis arremonops, two territories of which are traversed by the proposed OCP S.A. route. This area is also of great importance due to it being at the upper elevation limits of many of the Chocó endemic bird species such as the Yellow-breasted Antpitta Grallaria flavotincta, and due to the presence of other species of concern such as the White-faced Nunbird Hapaloptila castanea. Between the forests of Nanegal and Mindo, all of the low habitat corridors have been destroyed, leaving only this area with sufficient habitat for intra-forest migration. The higher areas around this region such as Cerro El Castillo, while forested, are too high for these lower species to use as corridors. Therefore, it is imperative that further destruction of this important forest be stopped and extensive programs of reforestation be implemented.
AREA 4: MINDO CLOUDFOREST RESERVE AND VICINITY (2100-1700 m):
This area consists of a large protected area (Mindo Cloudforest Reserve; 250 ha, over 90 % forested) and several other properties which are partially forested. An even higher percentage of the avifauna pertains to Chocó endemics and a large number of threatened and near-threatened species are present (compared to Area 3). The Mindo Cloudforest Reserve is known to harbour 9 Threatened or Near-threatened bird species, and 24 Chocó endemics, numbers which will undoubtedly increase once systematic bird surveys are undertaken. The endemic frog Eleutherodactylus appendiculata is also present.
AREA 5: UMBRELLABIRD LEK NEAR SAN TADEO (1680 m):
This area consists of a mosaic of forests and pasture. The recently discovered lek of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird Cephalopterus ornatus is located in a block of forest within 1 km of the proposed OCP S.A. route. The area, while appearing to be extensively degraded, is surrounded by forest remnants in the steep gullies, and is abutted by a 55 hectare patch of very high quality forest that is connecting these remnants to larger forest patches to the north-west. Given that this species is a flagship species, and this is only the second lek of this globally Threatened species ever to have been found in Ecuador, this zone just west of the Calacalí-La Independencia highway is of great conservation and economic (cf. ecotourism) importance. The conservation and protection of this site is of absolute highest priority when considering the impact of the proposed pipeline.
3.4. Economic Benefit of Conservation in the Mindo IBA
It is estimated that as many as 25,000 tourists anually visit the Mindo area. A large majority of these individuals (often in groups of five to ten individuals) visit Mindo for the purpose of wildlife viewing and enjoyment of nature. The Mindo area, Bellavista and the Tandayapa Valley are world famous for their bird diversity. It is also estimated that at least 5,000 of the 25,000 visiting the area are foreign tourists and spend approximately two nights in the area. These same tourists spend on average 200-250 U.S. $ per day or approximately 400-500 $. This brings in an estimated annual minimum of 2 million $ into the local economy (Paul Greenfield, pers. comm.). The growth potential is high considering that a similar area in Costa Rica (Monteverde), but with a better developed infrastructure, annually draws 100,000 international tourists.
4. EIS ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION
4.1 Deforestation of Right of Way (ROW):
The 'desbroce' or clearing and opening up of the right-of-way for the proposed pipeline construction will have obvious destructive effects on both flora and fauna, including Threatened species. A number of species may be more vulnerable to predators when an open area bisects their forest territories. In addition there will be increased vulnerability to both hunting and forest clearance by nearby villagers (see below).
The proposed pipeline construction, especially along the narrow ridges, holds high risks of erosion of the adjacent slopes and subsequent siltation of nearby river systems. The latter would have detrimental effects on aquatic communities (and potentially on some frog breeding grounds, see above), as well as on the fish farming activities in the Tandayapa and Alambí river systems. In addition landslides and erosion could have serious impacts on the scenic value of the area, thus impacting ecotourism. Contamination of the watersheds would also have negative impacts on all downstream communities and villages.
4.3 Species of Concern and Requiring Protection.
The species of concern that occur in this area, and that may be detrimentally effected by the proposed pipeline, include globally Threatened species such as the Black-breasted Puffleg, rare and/or local Chocó endemics such as the Glistening–green Tanager Chlorochrysa phoenicotis, and globally rare and highly localised species such as the White-faced Nunbird. Protection has to be given both to sites critical for individual Threatened species, such as the Long-wattled Umbrellabird lek, the territories of the Tanager Finch and Black-breasted Puffleg, but also to areas where the ranges of the other species of concern overlap, and these species exist in such concentrations that the areas are essentially threatened species “hotspots” . Examples of these sites are the forests of La Sorpresa Reserve, the Mindo Cloudforest Reserve and the wilderness area of Cerro El Castillo.
Using the maps which illustrate the potential ranges of the target globally threatened species as defined by their altitudinal limits and habitat requirements, five sensitive areas were identified and described in section 3.3. These are critically important for the continued existence of these species of concern.
The opening up of inaccessible areas to human access will likely result in increased and uncontrolled hunting and poaching, with negative effects on a variety of sensitive species, especially large mammals such as deer and Spectacled Bear, peccaries and monkeys, as well as large birds such as guans, Long-wattled Umbrellabird and raptors.
Due to the fragmented nature of the surviving areas of natural habitat in the area adjacent to the proposed pipeline route (area of influence), any intervention in primary forest is likely to have serious negative effects on the amphibian and reptile populations in general, and in particular on five locally endemic species. Amphibians, especially at elevations above 1,200 m, are extremely sensitive to environmental deterioration. Any alteration to areas above this elevation could compound the decline in amphibian populations and lead to the extinction of species such as Atelopus mindoensis.
The Lepanthes (orchids) survey results indicate that the OCP S.A. route is likely to contain other unusual, range-restricted or even undescribed species in other diverse genera such as Stelis and Crossoglossa. Apart from questions of species composition, the proposed pipeline route is remarkable for the large number of individual orchid plants, especially on the steep ridges around E 0760659, N 9996089. These are impressive areas with far more orchids than the “orchid reserve” of El Pahuma. Because the pipeline proposes to build on the same ridge crests that are preferred by the orchids, the impact of the proposed pipeline will be great. The project presents a serious global threat to the two rare Lepanthes species cited above.
4.4 Deforestation, Fragmentation and Habitat Loss:
Any opening up of previously continuous forest areas by the proposed pipeline right of way will lead to further deforestation through encroaching cultivation (e.g., slash & burn) by nearby communities (a standard practice in Ecuador even in legally protected areas), encroaching pastures, and increased wood extraction for lumber and firewood. Landslides as a consequence of the proposed pipeline construction and subsequent soil degradation can also contribute to habitat loss and fragmentation.
4.5 Oil Spills
The proposed pipeline passes through extremely rugged terrain. "State of the art" construction techniques have been proposed by OCP S.A. to mitigate the impacts of the pipeline construction to these areas (particularly within the confines of the Mindo IBA). However, these techniques are notably experimental and have not been proven, and little thought seems to have been given to how a spill would be dealt with in the area of Cerro El Castillo if indeed access is limited to light machinery. In the event of the proposed pipeline being constructed through this area, it would be of critical importance that emergency plans be elaborated, dully approved by the community. These would include a component for training people in appropriate spill response techniques. Additional plans would need to be developed to deal with oil spills in and around waterways.
4.6 Cumulative Effects
The following need to be considered, among other things, in the EIS:
- Encroaching cultivation
- Encroaching pastures
- Wood extraction for lumber and firewood
- Species (e.g., frogs) extinction in the Mindo region
- Increased forest fragmentation
- Noise related to pipeline construction
- Environmental degradation of the Mindo IBA
- Degradation of the water quality of the hidrographic basins
- Reduction in economic benefits
4.7 Protected and Special Areas Designations
The Mindo area contains protected forests and has being designated an Important Bird Area (IBA). In addition, the area is a juncture between the following five Endemic Bird Areas (EBA) as defined by BirdLife (1995):
- Chocó - 30 endemic species
- North Central Andean – 2 species
- Central Andean Páramo – 2 species
- Tumbesian – 1 species
- Colombian Inter-Andean Slopes EBA – 1 species
4.8 Residual Loss (expected loss)
It is critical that the EIS identify those losses which are expected and for which there are no possible mitigating measures which can be taken (e.g., what habitats and or species will be impacted/ lost or which will the loss be to tourism from e.g. bad publicity, harm to landscape, traffic and noise interference during the construction phase?).
4.9 Potential Avifaunal Indicator Species
The bird species that can be used as indicators to determine the extent of disturbance in the area, vary with habitat and altitude. These should be species that are easy to record when present and that exist in sufficient numbers to be able to detect any changes in numbers. The use of species with very low densities such as the Greater Scythebill (as suggested in the draft EIS by Entrix Inc.) should be avoided. Any comparative studies investigating changes over time should not only look at species diversity, but also at the relative abundances of the indicator species.
Appendix A Rapid Assessment of Avifaunal Surveys
Appendix B Rapid Assessment of Herpitofaunal Surveys
Appendix C Rapid Assessment of Orchids
Appendix D Maps 1: Land Use
Maps 2-9 Select species analysis
Map 10-11: Chocó Endemics
Map 12: Total Recent Sightings of Globally Threatened Species
Map 13: Critical Areas
Appendix E Bird List – Mindo Area
Appendix F Mammal checklists