Traces of Lost Society Found in 'Pristine' Cloud Forest

Deep in Ecuador’s lush Quijos Valley, a society thrived—and then disappeared. But a lake preserved its story.

In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest, a place where people had never gone.

But they were very wrong. Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The Quijos Valley lies in one of the most biodiverse cloud forests

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