Eliana Montenegro

Solutions for the Sustainable Coexistence between Humans and Aquatic Birds in La Segua, Ecuardor

Project Site: La Segua, Ecuador
Disciplines: Conservation, Ornithology, Architecture, Socio-environmental Management
Collaborators: Aves y Conservación (BirdLife International), Ministry of the Environment and Water of Ecuador, MANABIO, Nature Guides from La Segua

Eliana has been working in bird conservation since early on in her career. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from San Francisco University in Quito and is currently studying her master’s in Socio-environmental Studies at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) Ecuador. Eliana has experience in urban ecology, bird monitoring techniques for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, community-involvement and evidence-based conservation. She has led several projects related to the conservation of endangered bird species in threatened ecosystems e.g. the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus) in the Chocó Ecoregion. Eliana actively participates in ornithological activities, citizen science and community work in her country. Her current research is focused in human – wildlife interactions, ethno-ornithology and conservation biology.

La Segua is one of the most important wetlands in Ecuador and one of the priority sites of the Pacific Flyway in Latin America. More than 150 species of birds have been detected, 22 are migratory and 63 are resident colonial aquatic species. In 2000, this wetland was declared a Ramsar site due to its birdlife and the ecosystem services it provides to the local communities.

Despite its importance, there is concern for the situation of this wetland, mainly because of anthropogenic impacts resulting from unsustainable agricultural practices such as contamination by agrochemicals and the use of rudimentary irrigation systems. Similarly, since 2015 a growing expansion of shrimp farms has been reported, and the impact of this activity on bird populations has not yet been evaluated.

A flight of Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) at La Segua. Photo: Dušan Brinkhuizen

Our project aims to approach these problems from a multidisciplinary perspective – biological sciences, agro-ecology and architecture – to create interconnected landscapes in balance with the social, ecological and economic dimensions of the place, for the benefit of aquatic bird populations and to improve the quality of life of local communities. With this project, we expect to: (1) transform selected traditional agricultural sites into bird-friendly agricultural sites with architectonic and landscape interventions, (2) strengthen local capacities through the implementation of agro-ecology and permaculture workshops focused on the importance of aquatic birds, (3) generate relationships with the shrimp sector to establish long-term conservation strategies for the La Segua wetland and aquatic bird populations, and (4) determine the impacts of the shrimp sector on bird populations.

The mentor for this project is Tatiana Santander, Conservation Director at Aves y Conservacion (BirdLife International) in Ecuador, with more than 34 years of experience, dedicated to the conservation and research of birds, their habitats, and the biodiversity of Ecuador. The cross-sectoral collaborator is Enrique Fornasini Garcia, an architect with knowledge in biology who in the past few years has worked closely with green architecture and urban planning at the Technological University at Vienna and Polytechnic University of Cataluña, respectively. This project will also be supported by the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador.

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.