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August 16, 2021 0
Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are approximately 1,200 species of flora at Mashpi, and only about 450 of those have been formally identified. On top of that, the variety of climates and rainforest ecosystems found in the reserve create a unique environment for endemic species to thrive in. This has also led to many unique symbiotic relationships being formed between the flora and fauna.

Lepanthes Mashpica
New Orchid specie in Mashpi Photo Credit: Luis Baquero

What makes Mashpi’s forests so special?

It’s easy to say that it’s just greenery -nothing particularly special- but when you start to see the amalgamation of different climates and rare species found throughout the forest from the smallest shrub to the grandiose trees soaring above, it’s clear that Mashpi is true hotspot of biodiversity.

But how can you be sure that you’ll be able to take in the full beauty and grasp the sheer natural greatness of Mashpi? Fortunately, the staff is just as enamored with their surroundings as you are! Our fully qualified, knowledgeable, and passionate guides will be able to answer every question you have and reveal the secrets contained within the mysterious Andean forests.

Cloud forest
Cloud forest surrounding Mashpi Lodge

Tropical Forests (Rainforest / Cloud Forest)

When we look at a forest, we notice that it’s not just made up of one plant species, nor that it reaches a single height. As it takes many hands to build a village, it takes many organisms to form a forest, ranging from trees, shrubs, moss, and vines to flowering plants and everything in between.

Each of these different species of flora can be identified by their growth pattern and the structure of the plant. Each species has a place within the ecosystem and has adapted to its job. For example, a tall woody tree, such as the Magnolia of Mashpi, takes up significant vertical space, providing a great food source and habitat for birds and canopy fauna. Meanwhile, the moss that spreads over the forest floor and tree branches retains humidity and filters water.

Different types of trees can also be identified within the complex ecosystem, and each one plays its part. Older trees have more extensive root systems while the younger ones provide newer growth and new habitats. The size and shape of the different plant species correlate closely with their individual ages as the new plants grow around and on the old.

The climate factors of the rainforest heavily impact the health of the entire ecosystem. These include rainfall, humidity, sunlight and radiation levels, and temperature. If there is very little sunlight or rainfall, the rainforest is unable to undergo the process of photosynthesis or get sufficient nutrients to prosper. However, the different types of vegetation and the different forest layers help to maintain balance within the ecosystem.

The different types of vegetation vary in roles and orientation within the rainforest. The bushes and shrubs line the forest floor, shrub layer, and understory providing many habitats and food sources for the huge variety of fauna. For example, the long species list of hummingbirds found in Mashpi can be attributed to the staggering variety of flowers available as food sources. The herbs and epiphytes, or orchids, are dispersed amongst the other shrubs and provide an excellent food source for insects and birds.

In general, trees make up most of the subcanopy, canopy, and emergent layers of the forest. They have far-reaching root systems that continue the nutrient cycle throughout the rainforest. Their branches create canopy habitats for species that spend little time on the forest floor. The branches are also the home to many bromeliad plant species that have a symbiotic relationship with the trees. They provide the perfect habitat for the many tree frogs found within the cloud forest. The frogs lay their eggs in the water accumulated in the leaves and because all their needs are met by their treetop home, a frog can be born, live, and die without ever going to the ground.

The addition of bromeliads means that the density of the dorsal layer could be three times higher than the subdorsal layer that is found in other similar cloud forests. This means that there is an unusually high number of species, including many arthropods, that call this layer their home, far from the forest floor. Traveling on our Sky bike and Dragonfly are some of the best ways for our scientists to collect specimens for their research. It’s also the best way for visitors to truly immerse themselves into the immensity of the forest from the skyscraper trees down to the moss covering the bark.

Woody Plants

These are the plants or trees that we commonly identify as being made from “wood” or those that most of the world would use to build a fire, for example. They are known as true vascular plants because they have real organs such as roots, stems, leaves, and bark, and usually form part of the rigid tall flora.

Within the rainforest, their function is very important. They are the main circulatory system for water, and help cycle the nutrients throughout the ecosystem. In a study that began in 2014, Germán Toasa and Carlos Morochz were able to identify 93 distinct species belonging to 36 different families. The most diverse family was the Fabaceae family where 10 different species were found, while  seven species were found from each of the Lauraceae and Rubiaceae families. As a baseline study, we expect many more woody plant species to be discovered in Mashpi in the near future.

Magnolia Mashpi Flower

Within the Mashpi rainforest, woody plants can range in height from the understory layer to the emergent layer and generally represent most of the flora that is vying for a spot of sunlight. For example, the Magnolia de Mashpi o cucharillo (magnolia mashpi) reaches into the emergent layer, as do the Copal (dacryodes cupularis), Sande (brosimum utile), Canelo (ocotea insularis), and Matapalo (clarisia racemose)- all of which are 25 meters (82 feet) or taller, and form part of the sub-canopy or canopy layers.

The Magnolia de Mashpi (magnolia mashpi) is one of Mashpi’s tallest trees that you’ll spot while zipping along “The Dragonfly” or the Sky Bike. It was first identified in 2016 by a scientific team comprised of Mashpi’s Research and Biology team and members of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE). It hosts its own mini-ecosystem as it soars to more than 40 meters (130 feet) in the emergent layer. Its fruit and flowers attract insects and other fauna, a fascinating relationship that has yet to be fully studied.

 

Do you want to experience this untouched, mystery-filled paradise? Contact our Destination Experts to find out more.

 

 


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January 19, 2021 0
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While traveling to the other side of the world to experience the wilderness of Ecuador, it’s important that you get the best bang for your buck, the most bounce for the ounce, or, in less flowery terms, the most value for your money. Spending less or more on your jungle lodge doesn’t necessarily mean that your experience will be any better or worse than other alternatives, but it’s important to research all possible avenues.  

Sacha Lodge 

Sacha Lodge can be reached by a 25-minute plane ride to Coca, a 2-hour motorized canoe up the Napo River, and then a 20-minute walk through the forest. This authentically built lodge sporting exposed timber beams, bamboo accents, and private terraces adorned with hammocks grace the edge of a dark lake in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. The lodge strives to provide guests with locally sourced, sustainable food such as Paiche, an Amazon river fish, in its fine à la carte menu, which is refreshed on a daily basis. Many animals, including monkeys and endemic birds, can be seen here from the observation tower, canopy walk or on one of the Lodge’s many hikes, but some walks involve a steady hike deep into the rainforest. Activities include river paddling, forest walks, a visit to the local Yasuni indigenous communities, and a canopy walk. In every aspect, the lodge endeavors to protect the unique natural resources and stop deforestation of the rainforest.  

Napo Wildlife Center 

The trip to the Napo Wildlife Center is included in the experience, as arriving includes a trip to Coca (by car or plane), a 2-hour motorboat ride, and then 2 hours in a paddle canoe. Located deep in the Yasuni National Park and surrounded by water, the Napo Wildlife Center and has close ties to the local Kichwa community of Añangu. It closely follows sustainable eco-tourism standards by working on renewable energy, education, and health care projects for the community. All waste is processed to protect natural swamps, and the energy used at the center is generated by a variety of solar panels, industrial batteries, and silent generators. The clean, white rooms decorated with raw wood accents and draping fabric are simple but elegant. The center provides guided hikes throughout the forest to be sure that you, as a bird watcher, can see the rainforest’s flora and fauna, many of which can also be seen from the central tower offering 360o views of the surrounding area.  

Mindo 

Mindo is a small popular village located about two hours from Quito by car. It is famous for its extreme sports, such as tubing on the river or ziplining through the cloud forest. It is full of small lodges and bed-and-breakfast type establishments, more of a “backpacker paradise” than the high-end lodges on the rest of the list. Activities around town include a chocolate tour through the cacao fields, cable cars, and visits to the several waterfalls in the area. Although a few animals can be seen on guided tours and a visit to the butterfly garden,  Mindo is more attractive to those who enjoy thrill-seeking and adventure. For those who aren’t quite up for flying across a valley on a rope, one of the other options is probably a better fit.  Keep in mind Mindo is a beautiful town, but if if you are looking for something more remote, secluded, and intimate, it might not be the best choice for you.  

 

Mashpi Lodge 

Mashpi Lodge is a luxurious hideaway cocooned in the Choco rainforest located less than four hours from Quito. It offers an array of hikes with varying difficulties and times. Each hike offers something unique, including jungle swings, an observation tower, waterfalls, a cable car, and a sky bike. And, of course, every walk offers the opportunity to spot a lot of flora and fauna, including many endemic birds, animals, and butterflies.   

After a hike, Mashpi Lodge offers its guests the chance to relax  at its award-winning spa for a deep-tissue massage, soak in its open-air hot tub, or enjoy a rejuvenating yoga session. Its restaurant offers a top dining experience, predominantly using sustainable and locally sourced products.  

One of the main focuses of Mashpi Lodge is to contribute to science; therefore, it employs a full-time research team that is actively performing research on the surrounding ecosystems and species in the area. The researchers at Mashpi are always happy to teach guests about new discoveries and ongoing projects. The laboratory and expedition room at Mashpi Lodge both help visitors get all the information they want to know.   

What do you want in your Ecuadorian forest experience? What is most important to you? Choose a lodge that has the smallest footprint on the surrounding environment, actively supports local development, offers the best adventure in the forest, and is also comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable – in short, a place where you’ll create memories to last a lifetime.