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The Mashpi cloud forest in Ecuador grows where water vapor from the Amazon meets the Andes mountains. A lush forest home to over 400 bird species, it faces threats from deforestation and mining. Biologist Paola Moscoso, Fundación Futuro, Yolanda Kakabadse and Sofía Sprechmann and other conservationists are pushing for the Mashpi cloud forest to be protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Center on the basis of “acoustic value,” because of the rich diversity of natural sounds heard in the ecosystem.
The Acoustic Value of the Cloud Forest
Written by Mickal Aranha
This is BirdNote.
The Mashpi cloud forest in Ecuador grows where water vapor from the Amazon meets the Andes mountains. Water condenses on the leaves and gnarled branches of trees, dripping onto the lush forest floor. This place is home to over 400 bird species, including this Black-breasted Puffleg, a blue-green hummingbird with white leg feathers.
[Black-breasted Puffleg calls and wing buzz]
Because Mashpi is enveloped in near constant fog, it can’t be appreciated by sight alone. Paola Moscoso is a biologist who specializes in ecoacoustics.
Paola Moscoso: If you go to a forest which is undisturbed, you're going to find acoustic richness and also like a high complexity.
That’s why Paola and a team of conservationists are pushing for the sounds of the Mashpi cloud forest to be protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Center on the basis of “acoustic value.” UNESCO often prioritizes visual beauty and doesn’t currently cover sound. The team hopes to add a layer of protection to the region, where deforestation and mining threaten birds and other species.
Paola Moscoso: We are really trying to bring people to see the importance of the sounds, not only for the health of the wildlife itself — also the importance of the natural sounds for people.
[clip from Miguel Sevilla’s audio composition]
Musician Miguel Sevilla created this audio composition of sounds from Mashpi. It reflects the incredible sonic diversity to be found in this remarkable place.
[Dense soundscape from the cloud forest]
For BirdNote, I’m Mickal Aranha.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Black-breasted Puffleg ML42406621 recorded by Bertram Hickman.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2023 BirdNote January 2023
Narrator: Mickal Aranha
ID# cloudforest-01-2023-01-05 cloudforest-01