Ecuador is known to be one of the world's most biologically diverse countries. There are over 1500 bird species in the country, roughly 1/6 of all bird species in the world. Despite its small size (comparable to Colorado), Ecuador ranks not only fifth in total bird species, but also seventh in reptiles, third in amphibians, and sixth in butterflies. In fact, Ecuador has twice the plant and animal species of the United States and Canada together, four times more than all of Europe, and the largest number of plant species per unit of area in the Americas. Unfortunately, the rate of deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate: today only 6% of the country's rich tropical forests remain.
Ecuador is one of only 15 countries in the world that grows and exports both Arabica and Robusta coffee, the two main species of coffee produced and consumed in the world. Different ecosystems in Ecuador permit different coffee cultures to occur all over the country, including in the Galápagos Islands.
Historically, the Jipijapa Zone in the province of Manabí has been one of the most prominent places in which coffee has been cultivated in Ecuador. In 1860, coffee grains were introduced there. When Ecuador opened up to foreign trade and commerce, significant changes occurred throughout the country with new small plantations reaching a certain degree of development, allowing coffee export for the economic growth of the nation. This phenomenon occurred almost on par with cocoa production.
Coffee was introduced in Ecuador early in the nineteenth century, and remained one of Ecuador's top export crops through the 1970s. (Today, the top exports are oil, shrimp and bananas.) Ecuador produces Arabica coffee in the western foothills of the Andes south of Guayaquil, and in the hilly areas of coastal Manabí Province. Some Robusta varieties, used for soluble (instant) coffee, are grown in the north. Most Ecuadorian coffee is grown on small farms, from 1 to 10 hectares. About half of the coffee land is planted in coffee alone, while the rest is co-planted with cacao, citrus fruits, bananas, and/ or mangoes.
In 1903, the cultivation of coffee fell, but two years later, it began to grow again, with Ecuador commencing export to several European countries from the port of Manta. In 1935, the exports rose to 220,000 "sacos", 552,000 in 1960, nearly doubling to 1,018,000 in 1975, and 1,810,000 in 1985. However, due to economic recession in the 1990s, coffee export reduced slightly. In 2001, it had grown to 1,062,000 produced annually, equivalent to 63,720 metric tonnes. Of that tonnage, 311,804 was exported as grain. In 2001, the area under coffee cultivation in Ecuador was believed to be about 262,060 hectares, and by 2012 official government and industry figures put the figures at about 200,000 hectares, of which 150,000 hectares were rated as being in production. Ecuador's total annual coffee production is today (2012) estimated at about 650,000 bags of 60 kilograms (the international standard used for measuring coffee production worldwide) of which between 60 and 70 percent is Arabica and the balance is made up by Robusta.