The area is the only remnant dry forest in western Latin America and helps contain the expansion of the Sechura desert to the south. Its abundance of bird species makes it a well-known destination for birdwatchers. It also includes mangrove, coastline and some desert-like regions featuring cacti that grow over 20ft (6m).The new 1.8 million acre reserve will merge two existing reserves notable for their dry forest ecosystems: the Arenillas Forest Reserve in Ecuador’s south and northeastern Peru’s Tumbes forest.
But the significance of the agreement runs deeper than its ecological implications. It’s been interpreted as another sign that a centuries-old border dispute that has characterized relations between the two nations can truly be consigned to the dustbin of history.
There are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries around the world, including 16 that straddle the borders of two or more countries. The reserves are intended to promote both ecosystem preservation and sustainable development – objectives that can sometimes conflict.
Each reserve is divided into three zones: the core area is a strictly protected ecosystem, a second transition zone allows use for scientific and education purposes, while a third zone allows use of the area’s resources for sustainable development purposes. Launched 45 years ago, the reserves are part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme.
The amalgamation of the two reserves is expected to take place later this year.