Podocarpus National Park
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Podocarpus National Park is a national park located in the provinces of Zamora Chinchipe and Loja, in the south-east of Ecuador. It was created in 1982.
It covers 1462.80 km², from two spurs of the eastern range of the Andes to the basins of the Nangaritza, Numbala and Loyola rivers. About 85% of the park is in the province of Zamora Chinchipe and the remainder in the province of Loja.
The Podocarpus National Park contains a complex of more than 100 lagoons, among the best-known being the Lagunas del Compadre. Also there are waterfalls, and several classes of mammals and plants. Some unique biological adaptations have developed within the park, especially amongst birds.
The park has two main entrances corresponding to its two ecological zones. One is in 'Cajanuma Sector' in the high zone. The other is in 'Bombuscaro Sector', corresponding to the Bombuscaro River in the low zone. There are two alternative entrances in the high zone of the province of Zamora Chinchipe and in the 'Romerillos Sector', corresponding to the Jamboé River, and another less well-known one by Toledo Hill on the Yangana-Valladolid route.
The park owns an exceptional flora, and has been considered the 'Botanical Garden of America'. Its high and low mountain-forest ecosystems, located in the Nudo de Sabanilla pass, and its very humid mountain and premontane forests in the basin of the Numbala River, have more than 4,000 species of plants including trees that can measure up to 40 meters, like the romerillo (Podocarpus glometatus) which gives its name to the park, and many other valuable species like the Cinchona - the national tree of Ecuador - and a huge variety of orchids.
Due to the low elevation of the land, specific differences exist between the vegetation of the desert zone and the north of the country, and the mountain-tops and the undeveloped zone of transition to true desert.
Among the main species found in the region are chilca (Baccharis sp.), laurel, San Pedro cactus, uvilla, Black Elder, pumamaqui (Oreopanax sp.), sappanwood, arrayán, cashoco, alder, acacia, sage, guato blanco, cedar, castor-oil plant, walnut, yumbingue (Terminalia guyanensis) and canelón (Swartzia littlei).
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