Description: Northeastern Ecuador borders the Andes and lies at headwaters of the Amazon River (Figure 6.12). This region of high biological diversity possesses major centers of endemism as well as identified biodiversity “hot spots” (FAO 1995; Myers, 1988). Among the Amazon Basin countries, forest is disappearing fastest in Ecuador. Oil exploration, road construction, and land settlement threaten major conservation areas contiguous to colonization zones. This lowland forest region differs significantly in soil, settlement, and farming characteristics from the Brazilian Amazon. First, settlement has been almost entirely spontaneous rather than government-sponsored. Second, although detailed soil maps for the region do not exist, available maps indicate that moderately infertile, fragile Ferralsols dominate, with pockets of fertile volcanic soil due to the proximity to the Andes (FAO–UNESCO, 1971). While soil quality and type vary, on average, soils are more fertile in western Amazonia than in Brazil. Third, average annual precipitation (2,800 mm/year) is high; the lack of a distinct dry season precludes burning, and a “slash–and–mulch” system (Bromley, 1981) has evolved, in contrast to the slash–and–burn used elsewhere in Amazonia. For these reasons, the environment, in general, may allow a more ecologically sustainable agriculture and be more conducive to agricultural intensification than in the Brazilian Amazon (Bilsborrow/Walsh Proposal).