Land use and land cover were mapped between 3500 and 5000 meters above sea level m.a.s.l. in the Río Chambo basin in south-central Ecuador from Landsat MSS, TM, ETM and OLI imagery acquired between 1979 and 2014. The area mapped has been dominated by páramo and a variety of agricultural land uses since 1979. The main land-use transitions have been from páramo to agriculture, native forest to páramo and agriculture, and agriculture back to páramo. Significant areas of páramo have remained unchanged over the 35-year period analyzed, while the area of native forest has declined and that of bare soil increased. Plantations of non-native timber species increased from 1979 to 1999, but their area has now declined. Most land-use transformations have occurred at lower elevations in the 3500-5000 m.a.s.l. range. This is particularly the case for the loss of native forest and the degradation of páramo and agriculture to areas of bare (eroded) soils. A drivers-based approach revealed that these land-use transformations were related to import substitution and afforestation policies geared toward internal markets, exports and environmental conservation.