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A Dynamic Landscape

April 18, 2016

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Hello, we are happy to introduce ourselves as the new reserve managers at Las Tangaras! We are Heather and Costi most recently from Phoenix, Arizona and glad to escape the desert heat for the most opposite climate we could think of – the rainy cloud forests of Mindo!

One of the most striking things about the land here is just how mobile it is. You might hike a trail one day and then find it completely different the next. The most usual and likely catalyst of change in the rain forest is water; whether it’s a thunderstorm, over flowing river, constantly flowing runoff or our personal favorite: the landslide. Interestingly, the local word for landslide is “rumba” which is a synonym for “fiesta” making us wonder what kind of ground-shaking parties we’re missing out on!

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Evidence of a landslide on a neighboring ridge

So far during our stay here “rumbas” have been a common event – they have knocked out our water system , which required a re-route of the Aqua de Fuente Trail, destroyed part of the entrance trail (now fixed, feel free to come visit!), and successfully blocked the private road that sometimes allows us to transport heavy items closer to the reserve. We have even heard the distant rumbling and crashing of landslides happening on other parts of the reserve while working to clear damage on the trails.

In addition to keeping us busy with trail maintenance, landslides serve an important ecological purpose. In the dense cloud forest sunlight is a resource subject to heavy competition. Tall canopy and sub-canopy trees and shrubs shade out smaller herbaceous plants growing in the understory, leading to the preponderance of the distinct growing habits of vines and epiphytes. No need to grow thirty or fifty feet tall if you can just grow on top of the tree that already managed that height! When a landslide occurs it opens up a patch of bare dirt and sunlight ready to be colonized by new plants and pioneer species. It creates a new habitat type for birds and animals and may help maintain biodiversity.

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Vegetative growth in a post-landslide area

Recently a more terrifying natural occurrence reminded us again how mobile the land here is. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador on April 16th. Fortunately here at the reserve we only experienced a shaking house and items fallen from shelves. The earthquake originated off the coast of Bahia de Caraquez approximately 150 miles from Mindo. Though landslides and earthquakes may cause tragedy and inconvenience for us, we try to remember that we are simply visitors to this amazing ecosystem and we’re humbled to be here to witness the biodiversity maintained by the moving ground.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2016 4:49 pm

    Hi Heather & Costi! Have a blast as Las Tangaras and glad you’re okay after that earthquake. Hope you don’t have to spend too many days up Fuente de Agua, and watch out for those rumbas!!!

  2. April 19, 2016 12:22 pm

    Glad you two were not shaken too seriously. Landslide season should be slowing soon with rains becoming less frequent and intense (maybe – smile).

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