Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot: A Biodiversity Haven in Peril

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Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot: A Biodiversity Haven in Peril

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The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot, spanning from Panama to Peru, is a biodiverse region threatened by urbanization, hunting, and deforestation. With unique ecosystems and species, urgent conservation efforts are needed to protect this hotspot and preserve its exceptional biodiversity.

Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot: A Biodiversity Haven in Peril

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot, stretching over 1,500 km (930 mi) from southern Panama to northern Peru, is a testament to the awe-inspiring diversity of life in northwestern South America. Formerly known as the Chocó-Darién-Western Ecuador hotspot, this region has evolved to include the Magdalena Valley in northern Colombia, expanding its scope to almost 275,000 sq km (106,000 sq mi). Positioned along the western flank of the Andes Mountains, this hotspot encompasses various ecosystems, hosting an extraordinary range of flora and fauna.

Geographical Extent

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot's vast geographical scope spans from the Panama Canal to the northern reaches of Peru. It encompasses diverse habitats, including tropical moist forests, dry forests, and even islands such as Malpelo and the Galápagos. Bordered by the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor to the north and the Tropical Andes to the east, this hotspot boasts a complex tapestry of ecosystems.

Divided into two major phytogeographic regions – the Chocó/Darién wet and moist forests in the north and the Ecuadorian/Peruvian Tumbesian dry forests in the south – the hotspot is further characterized by specific ecoregions, each contributing to its overall ecological richness.

Ecoregions and Habitats

The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot encompasses several ecoregions, each with distinct features. These ecoregions host an array of habitats, from mangroves and coastal wilderness to the lush rainforests of the Colombian Chocó. Additionally, the presence of small mountain systems has led to the evolution of isolated "islands" of endemism, contributing to the hotspot's unique ecological makeup.

Chocó-Darién moist forests (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama): The Chocó-Darién moist forests ecoregion is characterized by extremely high precipitation and extraordinary species diversity, with around 25% of its plant species being endemic. It is home to more palm species than any other part of the world and supports large numbers of endemic birds, amphibians, and other species.

Ecuadorian dry forests (Ecuador): The Ecuadorian dry forests ecoregion is found in the coastal plains of Ecuador and is dominated by thorny desert scrub vegetation, with some premontane forests on the foothills and slopes.

Guayaquil flooded grasslands (Ecuador): The Guayaquil flooded grasslands ecoregion in Ecuador consists of seasonally flooded grasslands and savannas.

Gulf of Guayaquil-Tumbes mangroves (Ecuador, Peru): The Gulf of Guayaquil-Tumbes mangroves ecoregion along the coast of Ecuador and Peru is characterized by extensive mangrove forests.

Galápagos Islands xeric scrub (Ecuador): The Galápagos Islands xeric scrub ecoregion in Ecuador is dominated by drought-adapted vegetation such as cacti and shrubs.

Magdalena Valley montane forests (Colombia): The Magdalena Valley montane forests ecoregion in Colombia is characterized by montane forests found in the Magdalena River valley.

Magdalena-Urabá moist forests (Colombia): The Magdalena-Urabá moist forests ecoregion in Colombia contains lowland moist broadleaf forests.

Manabí mangroves (Ecuador): The Manabí mangroves ecoregion in Ecuador consists of mangrove forests along the coast.

Tumbes-Piura dry forests (Ecuador, Peru): The Tumbes-Piura dry forests ecoregion in Ecuador and Peru is dominated by dry deciduous forests and scrublands.

Piura mangroves (Peru): The Piura mangrove ecoregion in Peru contains mangrove forests.

Western Ecuador moist forests (Ecuador): The Western Ecuador moist forests ecoregion in Ecuador is characterized by humid and very humid premontane and montane forests.

Eastern Panamanian Montane Forests (Panama, Colombia): The Eastern Panamanian Montane Forests ecoregion in Panama and Colombia contains montane forests.

Malpelo Island Xeric Scrub (Colombia): The Malpelo Island Xeric Scrub ecoregion in Colombia is dominated by drought-adapted vegetation on the small Malpelo Island.

Galápagos Islands Scrubland Mosaic (Ecuador): The Galápagos Islands Scrubland Mosaic ecoregion in Ecuador consists of a diverse mosaic of xeric scrub, grassland, and other vegetation types across the Galápagos Islands.


The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot is a treasure trove of biodiversity, boasting an estimated 11,000 vascular plant species, nearly 900 bird species (including 17 threatened species), over 285 mammal species, and more than 320 reptilian species. The Galápagos Islands contribute significantly to this richness, hosting around 20 endemic reptilian species. Amphibians add to the hotspot's charismatic fauna, like the brightly-colored poison dart frogs. Endangered species like the bare-necked umbrellabird and the white-winged guan highlight the vulnerability of unique ecosystems within this region.

Threats to Biodiversity

Despite its ecological significance, the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot faces severe threats. Urbanization, hunting (especially of large birds and mammals), and deforestation are taking a toll on its diverse ecosystems. Coastal mangrove forests are particularly vulnerable, with Ecuador's coastal forests reduced to a mere 2 percent of their original coverage. Farming encroachment, illegal crops, and population growth further exacerbate the challenges, rendering coastal Ecuador the most threatened tropical forest in the world.


The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot, with its breathtaking biodiversity and unique ecosystems, stands as a beacon of nature's resilience. However, the impending threats of urbanization, deforestation, and illegal activities overshadow this ecological haven. Conservation efforts, sustainable practices, and international cooperation are essential to preserve the richness of this hotspot for future generations. The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspot is not merely a geographical entity; it is a living testament to the interconnectedness of life and the urgent need for responsible stewardship of our planet's natural wonders.

Map with the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot highlighted

Map with the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot highlighted.