Sangay National Park

With its outstanding natural beauty and two active volcanoes, the park illustrates the entire spectrum of ecosystems, ranging from tropical rainforests to glaciers, with striking contrasts between the snowcapped peaks and the forests of the plains. Its isolation has encouraged the survival of indigenous species such as the mountain tapir and the Andean condor.

The site is situated in the Cordillera Oriental region of the Andes in central Ecuador. The park is dominated by three volcanoes, Tungurahua (5,016 m) and El Altar (5,139 m) to the north-west and Sangay (5,230 m) in the central section of the park. Tungurahua and Sangay are both still active. Sangay regularly ejects hot rocks and tephra, and the last violent eruptions of Tungurahua occurred from 1916 to 1925. El Altar has an eroded and glaciated caldera and is considered extinct. The park has three landscapes: alluvial fans, eastern foothills and the High Andes.

Major rivers drain eastwards into the Amazon Basin and are characterized by rapid and dramatic variations in level. Numerous waterfalls occur, especially in the hanging valleys of the glaciated zone and along the eastern edge of the Cordillera. Numerous lakes are present, including Laguna Pintada which measures 5 km in length.

A high diversity of vegetation types are present, ranging from alpine zones of the high paramo to the subtropical rain and wet forests of the upper Amazon Basin. The principal physical factors influencing vegetation are altitude and rainfall, with more luxuriant vegetation growing on the wetter eastern slopes. Alpine rain tundra has formed at the highest levels below the snowline, and is dominated by lichens and bryophytes. A subalpine rain Paramo zone occurs below this. Montane wet forest is found in valleys to the west. At lower elevations, there is a greater variety of small trees and shrubs. Montane rainforest has developed on the wetter eastern slopes and occurs below 3,750 m. The vegetation of the upper half of this zone attains approximately 5 m. Below 3,000 m, the vegetation develops into forest up to 12 m high; between 2,000 m and 3,000 m lower montane rainforest occurs on steep-sided valleys. Subtropical rainforest occurs below 2,000 m where temperatures range from 18 °C to 24 °C and rainfall may reach 5,000 mm annually. Species diversity is very high and members of the Lauraceae and Moraceae families. This formation receives less rainfall in the south, forming a subtropical wet forest, although there is no clear distinction with wetter areas.

Fauna species distributions correspond with vegetation zones and there is a distinct altitudinal zonation. At the highest altitudes mountain tapir, puma, guinea pig and Andean fox occur. Elsewhere spectacled bear, jaguar, ocelot, margay, white-tailed deer, brocket deer, pudu and giant otter are found. The park contains two Endemic Bird Areas, the Central Andean páramo, home to 10 bird species of restricted range, and the eastern Andes of Ecuador and northern Peru, home to 15 restricted-range species. Noteworthy species include condor, seen particularly around the mountain area of Altar, cubillin and quilimas, cock-of-the-rock, which exists in substantial populations in inaccessible upper forest areas of the eastern Andean slopes, giant hummingbird, torrent duck, king vulture and swallow-tailed kite.

Established as a Wildlife Reserve on 16 June 1975 under Interministry Agreement No. 190. The status was changed to National Park on 26 July 1979 under Interministry Agreement No. 322. Inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 1983.

Property inscribed for both geological and ecological values under natural criterion N (ii) before 1994. Criterion N (i) Operational Guidelines 2002 was added. For more details see Decision 30.COM 8D.1.         


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