Geography of Ecuador

Learn Information about the South American Country of Ecuador

Ecuador pinned on the map with flag

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Ecuador is a country located on the west coast of South America between Columbia and Peru. It is known for its position along the Earth's equator and for officially controlling the Galapagos Islands, which are about 620 miles (1,000 km) from Ecuador's mainland. Ecuador is also incredibly biodiverse and it has a medium-sized economy.

Fast Facts: Ecuador

  • Official Name: Republic of Ecuador
  • Capital: Quito
  • Population: 16,498,502 (2018)
  • Official Language: Spanish (Castilian) 
  • Currency: US dollar (USD)
  • Form of Government: Presidential republic
  • Climate: Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
  • Total Area: 109,483 square miles (283,561 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Chimborazo at 20,561 feet (6,267 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

History of Ecuador

Ecuador has a long history of settlement by native peoples, but by the 15th century it was controlled by the Inca Empire. In 1534 however, the Spanish arrived and took the area from the Inca. Throughout the rest of the 1500s, Spain developed colonies in Ecuador and in 1563, Quito was named as an administrative district of Spain.

Beginning in 1809, Ecuadorian natives began to revolt against Spain and in 1822 independence forces beat the Spanish army and Ecuador joined the Republic of Gran Colombia. In 1830 though, Ecuador became a separate republic. In its early years of independence and through the 19th century, Ecuador was unstable politically and it had a number of different rulers. By the late 1800s, Ecuador's economy was beginning to develop as it became an exporter of cocoa and its people began to practice agriculture along the coast.

The early 1900s in Ecuador were also unstable politically and in the 1940s it had a short war with Peru that ended in 1942 with the Rio Protocol. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Rio Protocol led to Ecuador conceding a portion of its land that was in the Amazon area to draw the borders that it currently has today. Ecuador's economy continued to grow after World War II and bananas became a large export.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Ecuador stabilized politically and was run as a democracy, but in 1997 instability returned after Abdala Bucaram (who became president in 1996) was removed from office after claims of corruption. In 1998, Jamil Mahuad was elected president but he was unpopular with the public due to economic problems. On January 21, 2000, a junta took place and Vice President Gustavo Noboa took control.

Despite some of Noboa's positive policies, political stability did not return to Ecuador until 2007 with the election of Rafael Correa. In October 2008, a new constitution went into effect and several policies of reform were enacted shortly thereafter.

Government of Ecuador

Today, Ecuador's government is considered a republic. It has an executive branch with a chief of state and a head of government, both of which are filled by the president. Ecuador also has a unicameral National Assembly of 124 seats that makes up its legislative branch and a judicial branch composed of the National Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court.

Economics and Land Use in Ecuador

Ecuador currently has a medium-sized economy that is based mainly on its petroleum resources and agricultural products. These products include bananas, coffee, cocoa, rice, potatoes, tapioca, plantains, sugarcane, cattle, sheep, pigs, beef, pork, dairy products, balsa wood, fish and shrimp. In addition to petroleum, Ecuador's other industrial products include food processing, textiles, wood products, and various chemicals manufacturing.

Geography, Climate, and Biodiversity of Ecuador

Ecuador is unique in its geography because it is located on the Earth's equator. Its capital Quito is located only 15 miles (25 km) from a latitude of 0 degrees. Ecuador has a varied topography that includes coastal plains, central highlands, and a flat eastern jungle. In addition, Ecuador has an area called Region Insular which contains the Galapagos Islands.

According to Conservation International, Ecuador is one of the world's most biodiverse countries. This is because it owns the Galapagos Islands as well as portions of the Amazon Rainforest. Ecuador has roughly 15% of the world's known bird species, 16,000 species of plants, 106 endemic reptiles, and 138 amphibians. The Galapagos Islands also have a number of unique endemic species and is where Charles Darwin developed his Theory of Evolution.

It should be noted that a large portion of Ecuador's high mountains are volcanic. The country's highest point, Mount Chimborazo, is a stratovolcano and because of the Earth's shape, it is considered as the point on the Earth that is farthest from its center at an elevation of 6,310 m.

Ecuador's climate is considered humid subtropical in the rainforest areas and along its coast. The rest, however, is dependent on altitude. Quito is the capital and, with an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), is the second-highest capital city on the planet. The average July high temperature in Quito is 66 degrees (19˚C) and its January average low is 49 degrees (9.4˚C).


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Ecuador." ThoughtCo, Sep. 17, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, September 17). Geography of Ecuador. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Ecuador." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).