Save the Rainforest Branches Out

Restoring Life to Mangrove Ecosystems in Ecuador

Mangrove Forest Ecuador

Gettin' Our Hands Dirty

Save the Rainforest trips provide the roots of academic knowledge needed to inspire students to be leaders and activists in caring for and saving our planet’s vital rainforest ecosystems. But knowledge yearns for application. So the students took this opportunity to apply their knowledge provided by Save the Rainforest trips to help restore a section of Ecuador’s rich and critically important mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world, and if kept undisturbed, they are a critical resource in the fight against climate change.

A Journey to the Mangrove Forests

Students Mangrove Forest Ecuador

Our students went to the mangrove forests of Muisne, Ecuador . Here they studied the impact of industrialized shrimp farms and compared them with traditional and more sustainable methods of harvesting shellfish and crabs from the mangroves. The students had the chance to work —and play volleyball and dance— with local Afro-Ecuadorians and the Chachi indigenous people, both of whom have lived among the mangrove forests for centuries.

From Deterioration to Reclamation and Recovery

However, the diverse and vital mangrove forest ecosystem is threatened. The influx of shrimp ponds drains the mangrove flats which destroys productive and biologically important habitats . Aside from the direct impacts, populations of oceanic fish began to decline due the loss of their nurseries among the mangrove roots. Many bird species specialized in hunting among the mangroves also lost their habitat. And coastal communities lost their "mangrove seawall" and suffered from the loss of their source of saltwater-resistant wood and became vulnerable to flooding. Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics in the shrimp ponds has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the ocean nearby. The areas the students helped to reforest was, and is, of vital importance to the native fauna and local people.

Diverse Voices One Call

Our focus in Ecuador usually focuses on the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands, but we have made forays into cloud forests, high mountain grasslands, dry forest, stream ecosystems and coastal ecosystems, including mangrove forests. I look forward to resuming both our “regular” (a word that really doesn’t apply to our exceptional programs) trips, as well as special journeys. Which of these ecosystems and cultures call out to you?

Thank you!

Christopher James


Contact Christopher James (me) at with any questions you may have regarding Ecuador’s ecosystems or cultures. I’ll be happy to hear from you!

"The world is fixed, we say: fish in the sea, birds in the air. But in the mangrove swamps by the Niger, fish climb trees and ogle uneasy naturalists who try unsuccessfully to chase them back to the water. There are things still coming ashore. ”

-- Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

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