This paper intends to introduce the Galapagos Islands, an ecological property on the list of World Heritage Sites in Threat by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Company. Galapagos Islands have distinct communities with diverse native and endemic species of flora and fauna. The Charles Darwin Structure (CDF) was established to resolve security and preservation concerns of Galapagos Islands. CDF teamed up with the national and city governments, Galapagos National Park Solutions, other companies, volunteers, and local citizens to move forward its required.
Although there were indications of development on the efforts made, Galapagos Islands still deal with the same challenges that threaten its biodiversity: intrusive species, growing but reckless regional population, illegal fishing, global demands for tourist and marine resources, and contrasting interests of various stakeholders. Doubling the existing efforts, stewardship by all stakeholders and a steady national leadership will accelerate the procedure. Galapagos Islands: A Natural World Heritage Site
Intro and Background This paper intends to introduce the Galapagos Islands, an eco-friendly home on the list of World Heritage in Danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Company (UNESCO).
Specifically, the paper will describe the diversity of types, the communities, man made dangers, existing protection and preservation measures, specific efforts, and the possible impact of ignoring the stated World Heritage site.
Galapagos Conservation Trust (2001) provides the following historical accounts leading to Galapagos’ inscription as a World Heritage Site in Danger: (1) 1959 – Ecuador declared 97% of the land area of Galapagos as a National Park, (2) 1978 – UNESCO inscribed the Galapagos Islands as the first site on the list of World Heritage Sites, (3) 1986 – Ecuador established the Galapagos Marine Resources Reserve to protect the waters around the archipelago, (4) 1998 – the Special Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Galapagos Province created the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and (5) 2001 – UNESCO expanded the heritage site to include the Marine Reserve. In 2007, UNESCO inscribed the Galapagos Islands on the list of World Heritage in Danger (2008). Description Location
The Galapagos Islands, about 1,000 kilometers off the Pacific coast of Ecuador, comprise 14 major islands and more than 120 smaller islets and rocks, covering a total land area of about 8,000 square kilometers (Charles Darwin Foundation [CDF], 2008). The volcanic and seismic activities that formed the islands “led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835” (UNESCO, 2008). Galapagos lies in the Pacific Ocean, where the convergence of three ocean currents provides a ‘melting pot’ for different marine species. The Galapagos Marine Reserve surrounding the archipelago covers an area of 138,000 sq. km. (CDF, 2008). Land and Marine Ecosystems
Galapagos has a combination of land and marine ecosystems, with distinct habitats and communities (CDF, 2008). Every native and endemic species has successfully adapted and occupied a unique niche in each ecosystem with little rivalry for food and space; however, the introduction of new species has disrupted the ecosystems (CDF, 2008). The land ecosystem has four vegetation zones that determine habitats, to wit, littoral, dry, transition, and humid (CDF, 2008). The littoral zone refers to the coastal fringe of the islands, which shelter four mangrove tree species. The dry zone is a home to many cacti. The transition zone includes a variety of small trees or shrubs like guayabillo and tomato.
The humid zone has trees, shrubs, ferns, orchids, and mosses (CDF, 2008). There are 560 native species of flora 180, of which are endemic (CDF, 2008). The reptiles and amphibians include the most notable endemic species—the giant tortoise, sea-going iguana, ashen-colored marine iguana, lava lizard, geckos (CDF, 2008). The range of endemic birds includes the finches, penguin, cormorant, and swallow-tailed gull. In addition, there are more than 60 endemic land snails (CDF, 2008). Several species of flora and fauna were introduced, some of which are invasive and pose a serious threat to the ecosystems, e. g. , rat species eating reptile eggs, birds carrying diseases (CDF, 2008).
The marine habitat has a “combination of cold and warm oceanic currents”, a “wide range of marine landscapes”, and “highly unusual range of biological communities, of exceptional diversity” (CDF, 2008). CDF reported more than 2,900 marine species, of which over 18% live only in Galapagos Islands (2008). Coastal animals of Galapagos include “sea lions, fur seals, flightless cormorants, albatrosses, three species of booby, two frigate bird species, sea turtles, the marine iguana, and penguins” (CDF, 2008). Healthy populations of the largest marine animals exist, such as sharks, whales, and dolphins. Smaller marine species that are at the base of the food web for larger animals include marine invertebrate and plant species, such as shrimps, starfish sponges, corals, anemones, gorgonians, and conches (CDF, 2008). Human Threats in the Area
UNESCO mission confirmed the serious threats to the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve coming from the “growing encroachment of invasive species, increasing human immigration, uncontrolled development of tourism, and the failure of various institutions and agencies to deal with these threats” (2007). The increased human presence has hastened the introduction of plant and animal species that threaten the native and endemic flora and fauna (Epler, 2007, cited in Watkins & Cruz, 2007), e. g. , birds as hosts and disease carriers, black rats competing with endemic rice rat populations (CDF, 2008). The fishing boom has increased the local population by almost 200% in 2005 from 10,000 in 1990—the new residents with different beliefs and behaviors are less concerned with environmental issues (Epler, 2007).
Over-fishing or over-harvesting of natural resources, long-line fishing, and illegal commercial fishing for shark fins and other marine resources continue to put pressures on marine ecosystems (CDF, 2008). The development of the tourism industry had increased the number of visitors from 41,000 in 1990 to more than 100,000 in 2005 (Epler, 2007)—the tourists are attracted to a variety of activities—diving, cruises, snorkeling, shore excursions, bird watching, sea kayaking, fishing, and surfing and, but these activities, if not regulated can cause damages to the ecosystems. The conflicts among various sectors with competing economic interests, and the lack of response by government institutions added to the key Galapagos environmental problems. Existing Measures to Protect and Preserve the Galapagos Islands
The 1998 Special Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Galapagos Province provides the legal framework in fostering a participatory approach to conservation and sustainable development activities (CDF, 2008). UNESCO and the World Conservation Union set up the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) in 1959 to provide scientific research, offer technical advice to the Government, and disseminate information to ensure conservation success in Galapagos (CDF, 2008). CDF is involved in creating a new model for conservation management in Galapagos that focuses on “long-term ecological, social, and economic sustainability”, and recognizes human beings and their activities as part of the Galapagos ecosystem (2008).
It collaborates with the Galapagos National Park Service (the principal government authority), national and local institutions, scientists, local residents, tourists, and other stakeholders in the efforts to protect and preserve Galapagos. CDF (2008) performed complex tasks and will continue to perform its responsibilities to conserve Galapagos. The following are among its achievements: (1) a sustainable tourism model for Galapagos; (2) involvement in developing the Special Law for Galapagos; (3) an herbarium with the largest collection of Galapagos plants in the world; (4) the rescue of numerous species from extinction, such as the Giant tortoises and land iguanas; (5) the world’s largest program on eradicating or removing invasive plants and animals (e. g.
, feral goats, pigs, rats) from Galapagos; (6) the rediscovery of various “extinct” plant species; (7) the complete reference collection of invertebrates in Galapagos; (8) a group of well-trained scientists and professionals working for Galapagos; and (9) environmental education centers, providing learning materials for residents and tourists. Meanwhile, the Galapagos National Park Services (GNPS) established the National Park rules, which are enforced by park wardens and guides. Apart from this, GNPS monitors and controls the native flora and fauna species, controls and eradicates introduced invasive species, investigates laboratory, monitors sustainable use of natural resources, and controls and oversees the national park.
Overall, while much remains to be done to protect and conserve Galapagos, the Galapagos Conservancy claimed that the combined efforts of organizations and individuals at work have resulted in important signs of progress, to wit, among others: (1) Isabela will soon be free from feral goats and pigs, (2) “endemic plant and animal species previously on the brink of extinction are recovering”, (3) more local residents are participating in conserving efforts and identifying sustainable economic alternatives for fishermen, (4) a number of dogs and cats were neutered, (5) the Australian ladybug was successfully released, and (6) a giant tortoise was sighted in Espanola Island. Individual Initiatives to Protect and Preserve the Galapagos Islands The protection and conservation of the environment is everybody’s responsibility.
As an individual, one has so much to offer in one’s own way, including the following initiatives: (1) educate oneself about the native and endemic species in both ecosystems in Galapagos; (2) help eradicate dangerous and invasive species that were introduced; (3) promote awareness of and support for Galapagos Islands; (4) advance sense of personal stewardship; (5) volunteer for beach and reef cleanups, community networks, research, or information; (6) support or contribute directly to the work of foundations, and organizations, in charge of safeguarding and conserving the Galapagos Islands; (7) be an informed consumer—only buy marine products that had been collected in an ecologically sound manner; (8) do not collect live or dead corals, and other natural resources in Galapagos Islands, if you happen to be a tourist; (9) do not touch nor feed the animals; (10) keep trash out of the beaches and oceans; and (11) follow the guide and other instructions. Additional Measures, if any
The Galapagos Islands still face the same challenges that continue to endanger its unique biodiversity. Invasive species remain a threat to terrestrial biodiversity. The growing local population and illegal commercial fishing resulted in over-harvesting of marine resources and pollution. The increasing demand by international markets for marine resources and tourism provided pressures for a greater local access to natural resources. Much work remains to be done to protect and conserve the land and marine ecosystems in Galapagos Islands. Past and existing initiatives were on the right direction, but efforts need to be doubled to keep up with the faster pace of tourism growth.
Moreover, the synergy among different stakeholders with conflicting interests to take a share of stewardship in conserving the two protected areas is a pre-condition, coupled with a stable national leadership. Impact of Threats on the Area If the man made intrusions in Galapagos Islands continue without regulation and other forms of interventions to stop endangering the species and their habitats, these species may be irretrievably lost. Other marine resources in other parts of the world will as well be affected. Conclusions The Galapagos Islands national park and marine have unique ecosystems with diverse native and endemic species of flora and fauna. UNESCO just recently inscribed it on the list of World Heritage in Danger.
Although there are signs of progress as regards efforts to protect and conserve the protected areas, Galapagos Islands continue to face challenges that threaten its biodiversity: invasive species, growing but irresponsible local population, illegal fishing, global demands for tourism and marine resources, and conflicting interests of various stakeholders. Past and existing initiatives were on the right direction, but efforts need to be doubled to keep up with the pace of tourism growth. Moreover, stewardship by all stakeholders and a stable national leadership will speed up the process. References Charles Darwin Foundation. (2008, March 28). Galapagos Islands. Retrieved March 28, 2008, from http://www. darwinfoundation. org/en/. Galapagos Conservancy. (n. d. ). Conservation: a brief overview of Galapagos, the focus of our work.
Retrieved March 28, 2008, from http://www. galapagos. org/conservation. html. Galapagos Conservation Trust. (2001, January 1). Galapagos Islands. Retrieved March 29, 2008, from http://www. gct. org/intro. html. Galapagos National Park Service. (n. d. ). Galapagos. Retrieved March 29, 2008, from http://www. galapagospark. org/png/index. php. UNESCO World Heritage. (2007, April 11). UNESCO mission confirms threat to Galapagos Islands. Retrieved March 29, 2008, from http://whc. unesco. org/en/news/322. UNESCO World Heritage. (2008). Galapagos Islands. Retrieved March 29, 2008, from http://whc. unesco. org/en/list/1/. Watkins, G. , and Cruz, F. (2007, May). Galapagos at risk: a soci
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A Natural World Heritage Site. (2017, Feb 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-natural-world-heritage-site-essay