Rio Mazan 1986

Adam Gretton

The Río Mazán Project was initiated by conservationists in the town of Cuenca who successfully campaigned to protect 500 hectares of high Andean habitat in the Río Mazán valley in the 1980s. Most of this steep valley is covered in dense stands of montane cloudforest, grading naturally into paramó above 3,400 m, with red-barked Polylepis trees growing in clumps on the high slopes. The site is among the 596 “Key Areas” for the conservation of threatened bird species in the Neotropics identified by Wege and Long (1995). In 1986 and 1987, a group of more than 40 biologists from the UK studied the ecology of the Río Mazán forest in conjunction with biologists from Ecuadorian universities. The team was invited to the area by the Ecuadorian conservation group Tierra Viva and the forest’s managers, the water company ETAPA (Empresa de Agua Potable), and was endorsed by the ICBP Expedition Competition in 1986, principally for the ornithological component of the project. Two groups formed subsequently to advocate the forest’s protection and further research: the ‘Amigos de Mazán’ volunteer group in Cuenca and the Río Mazán Project in Norwich. The former became the Fundación Ecológica Mazán in the early 1990s and remains active to this day, in Río Mazán and elsewhere.