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1.1.2 Geographic Information

Ecuador has a length of 714 km (443.5 miles) N/S and a width of 658 km (409 miles) E/W, with an area of 256,370 sq. kilometers (98,984.5 sq. miles).  Ecuador is situated between 10 North to 50 south of latitude and 75 degrees and 85 degrees longitude. The country is divided into four main geographical regions:

Coastal Lowlands which are up to 200 kilometers (124.3 miles) wide and is bordered by the Coastal Cordillera which runs parallel and close to the Pacific Ocean for about 350 kilometers (217.5 miles) south from  Esmeraldas city to north of Guayaquil.  This northwestern region is extremely wet and is, in fact, one of the wettest places on the earth.  This region contains the southernmost Chocó forest, extends from Eastern Panama, through Colombia to this Ecuadorian area.  Further south of Guayaquil, in the coastal area the landscape turns drier.   In the extreme southwest lies the northern tip of the Sechura Desert which extends into Peru.  The extreme wet in the North and the extreme dry of the south are connected by a humidity gradient that influences the vegetation carpeting the landscape. This coastal area holds 46% of the Ecuadorian population.

The Andes area is composed of two parallel mountain ranges running from north to south.   The Western Cordillera (Cordillera Occidental) and the Eastern Cordillera (Cordillera Oriental), the latter forming the continental divide. Between the two mountain ranges there is an intermontane valley at 2000-3000 meters (6500 to 9850 ft.) and 10 to 20Kms. wide (6-13 miles) ,  also  known as the inter-Andean valley. The two Cordillera ridges are about 3,000 to 4,000 m (10,000 to 13,000 ft) high.   The western range has fewer snow-capped volcanoes, but paradoxically it is the range where the highest point in the country is located.  This peak is the majestic 6130m (20792 ft.) Chimborazo Volcano.  The eastern range holds most of the towering snow-capped volcanoes in the country, many of them reaching over 5,250 m (17,225 ft) in elevation.  One of the most interesting features in the Ecuadorian Andes is that just below 30 South latitude these two mountain ranges merge into one.  At this point the Andes are the lowest and the narrowest in Ecuador, and this forms a natural barrier for certain high elevation species. The Andean region has 49% of the Ecuadorian population.

The Amazonian Lowlands (Oriente) includes the Ecuadorian portion of the Amazon basin which in turn holds several isolated mountain ranges running parallel to the Andes, notably the Cutucú mountain range (Cordillera de Cutucú), and the Condor mountain range (Cordillera del Condor).  The “Oriente” lowlands extend from the base of the Eastern Cordillera at 700-800 m to below 300 m (2,310 to bellow 984 ft) is a very wet region, “the Amazonian rainforest” that is crossed by numerous rivers flowing east and southeast that eventually feed the mighty Amazon River.  This region still has vast areas of undisturbed forest and holds only 5% of the country´s inhabitants.

The Galapagos Islands region with 19 islands located 1,100 kilometers (683.6 miles) west from main land Ecuador. The Galápagos Islands Geography is treated extensively in the chapter on the Galápagos Islands. 

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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