Humans & Nature
â€œThe Earth is Art, the Photographer is just the witnessâ€? - Yann Arthus Bertrand
Humans & Nature: A Galapagos Review Nadia Rayward
“The Earth is Art, the Photographer is just the witness” - Yann Arthus Bertrand This book represents the end of a journey, and the beginning of a new one. Ever since my early school years, I was drawn to the fields of science and art in equal measure. Science, on the one hand, gave the theoretical foundation to help me better understand the world around us. Art, on the other, is an expression of the inner worth and value of different aspects of life. After graduating from high school, I faced a dilemma; I knew I had artistic tendencies, but I was also very attracted to science. I chose Biology as my path at university, but this choice did not feel like a perfect fit, until I transferred to the University of San Francisco. A few classes I took had a great impact on my perception of this scientific field, especially a course on Environmental Ethics. This represented a turning point for me, as I discovered the spiritual depth of biology; it was as if I had discovered its soul. My journey started to take a turn. When I completed my studies in biology, a new curiosity had awakened in me, and I could not ignore it. I wanted to find a way to share with the world the knowledge I had gathered about science through the beauty of nature, not in a purely aesthetic manner, but by bringing in the values of respect and admiration I had developed for it. Photography seemed like the perfect track to follow. It is an art that represents the reality, but can display the meaning of life and its different representations. This book, thus, is the product of putting all of my sources of inspiration together. It is about the interaction of humanity with nature, demonstrated through the specific case study of the Galapagos Islands. The location picked is of special significance. As this book will explain, the situation of these islands is quite particular in terms of its biodiversity. Because of the distinctive formation of the Galapagos and their remote location, life there has developed in a very unique manner. Species from different origins settled in the Galapagos, and evolved to adapt to the new conditions. This is precisely where Darwin developed his theory of evolution, which is one of the foundations in the field of biology. The Galapagos are considered a “living museum and a showcase of evolution”. With this book, my goal was to represent this treasure of biodiversity, to highlight the importance of nature for humanity and our responsibility to protect it. This book would not have been possible without the unconditional support from my family. I would like to thank my mother, Jennifer, for always encouraging me to find my passion and follow my dreams. She is a source of inspiration to me, to continue on this road of exploration to develop to my full potential. I would also like to thank my sister, Miriam, for always being by my side throughout this journey. I would like to make a special mention to my Environmental Ethics professor, Sam Mickey, for helping me discover a passion I had in me. It was he who taught me to see biology as not only a science but also an art and an ethical responsibility. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my friend Isabel Villarruel Oviedo for helping make my trip to the Galapagos a success. Not only am I grateful for her assistance in helping me plan and organize this trip, but also her support all throughout. Her knowledge and passion for the preservation of Ecuador mainland, Galapagos and the planet will always inspire me. As I finish this book, I now begin a journey to continue the work that just started with this project. It is my hope that the knowledge and accomplishments of this book will serve as my stepping-stone into the future.
Preface...............................................................................................................5. Introduction........................................................................................................9. History
Geological History............................................................................12. Human History..................................................................................18. Conservation History......................................................................26.
Native Species..................................................................................34. Inroduced Species...........................................................................46.
Resource Management Farming & Livestock.......................................................................54. Fishing...................................................................................................68. Stone Extraction...............................................................................76. Waste Management.....................................................................................86. Final Reflexions................................................................................................94.
Zakophus wollebaeki or Galapagos sea lion is endemic to the Galapagos Islands.San Cristobal Island.
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” -Charles Darwin.
From their geological formation to their unique biodiversity, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most exceptional sites in the world. Located around 1000 Km west of the coast of Ecuador, of which they are part, most of the islands are situated in the southern hemisphere, except for a few that lie on the equator1. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution made these islands famous in the biological field. Consequently, their study brought to light the significance of their wildlife and the importance to help preserve it. Reasons leading to the Galapagos Islands’ unique wildlife are their isolated location, their geological formation, and three different marine currents that surround them2. These factors make the islands one of the sites with the highest number of endemic species in the world. From a conservation standpoint, the Galapagos are also unique in the way in which humans have interacted with its nature throughout history. This book will evaluate whether this uniqueness can be used as an example to follow, whether there is room for improvement, and conclusions will explore universal suggestions relating to the importance of conservation worldwide and humans’ attitude toward it. In order to draw these conclusions a brief history of the most important factors impacting the Galapagos will be offered. This history will be reviewed from a geological perspective, as well as the human presence on these islands and conservation efforts that have been and continue to be made. This history review will be followed by a close examination of the Galapagos’ native and introduced species, in order to understand how their biodiversity has evolved throughout time. Finally, there will be a description of the islands’ resource management, covering agriculture, farming, fishing and rock extraction, as well as the Galapagos’ waste management. All of these criteria will help the discussion about conservation by bringing this case study to evaluation and drawing local, regional as well as universal conclusions to the field of biological conservation.
Santiago Fernandina Santa Cruz
Isabella San Cristobal
Sunset at Playa Mann beach. San Cristobal Island. 11
Geological History â€œDarwin was a biological evolutionist, because he was first a uniformitarian geologist. Biology is pre-eminent today among the natural sciences, because its younger sister, Geology, gave it the means.â€? -Charles Lapworth
Leon Dormido or Kicker Rock, a volcanic rock formation located on the west side of San Cristobal.
Figure 1-Diagram of volcanic island formation. In the Galapagos, a hotspot is situated between the Cocos and Nazca plates. This thermal plume generates sustained volcanic activity, which in turn creates a mountain of volcanic rock, which arises from the seafloor and eventually forms an island. The movement of the tectonic plates slowly pushes the island away from the hotspot and another island begins to form.3
The Galapagos Islands have a unique environment and their evolution and development has been different than other locations for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons Galapagos is so unique is their whereabouts: the closest landmass is Ecuador, about 1.000 km away. The two phenomena that allow us to understand the formation and situation of these islands are plate tectonics and the existence of a hotspot4. The plate tectonics theory describes how different plates form the lithosphere (the rigid outmost layer of a planet) and how the movement of the plates shapes the planet. The lithosphere is made up of the crust and upper mantle (Figure 2). The Galapagos Islands are located on the very northern section of the Nazca plate and is the primary landmass on this plate. The Nazca plate is bounded to the north to the Cocos plate, to the west to the Pacific plate, to the south the Antarctic plate and to the east to the South American plate. The Nazca plate collides in eastsoutheast direction with the South American plate4. The formation of the islands is thought to be the result of a hotspot currently located under Fernandina Island. A hotspot is a place where the mantle, a layer between the crust and the outer core of the earth, is unusually hot. It is created by a column of hot mantle that arises from the inside of the Earth forming seamounts. Slowly these seamounts form an island and the movement of the Nazca plate shifts this island to the east-southeast4. This is the reason why the islands further to the east are older than the ones directly under the hot spot (Figure 1). Resulting from these phenomena are the Galapagos Islands, made up of thirteen major islands and around two hundred or so smaller ones. They are volcanic in origin. Each major island is formed by a volcano, except Isabela Island, which was formed by the merging of six different shield volcanoes4. The total land area is about 7882 square kilomenters5. These islands are believed to be around five million years old. The oldest island, South Plaza, is calculated to be 4.2 million years old whereas Fernandina Island, the youngest one is estimated to be about 700 000 years old6. The Galapagos Islands are thought to be amongst the youngest islands in the world7.
Continental Crust Lithosphere
Figure 2- Diagram of the Earthâ€™s different layers.8
Cerro Mesa, Santa Cruz Island. 15
Rock formations near La Loberia beach. San Cristobal Island.
Human History “So-called ‘sustainable development’... is meaningless drivel.” -James Lovelock
Fishing boat near San Cristobal Island.
Thirteen islands in the Galapagos are considered to be major, only four are populated today-San Cristobal, Floreana, Santa Cruz and Isabela. A limiting factor in human population spreading to smaller islands is that in 1998 the “Special Regime Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Province of the Galapagos” was inscribed in the Ecuadorian Constitution. This law states that just about every aspect of the islands is the responsibility of the Galapagos National Park Service: from residency and migration of people to agriculture, fishing, marine monitoring, tourism waste management and total control over introduced species (2). So even though tourist and residency demand is high, the Galapagos National Park Service monitors conservation and development. Some historians believe that the Incas were the first to find the Galapagos Islands, but the first recorded discovery was in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama. Fray Tomas was planning to sail from Panama to Peru, but the strong currents pushed him to the Galapagos. Although today they are one of UNESCO’s biosphere reserves, Berlanga described the islands as an unwelcoming land with tortoises and cacti and he underlined the struggle to find fresh water (9). After his discovery, nobody went back until in the late 1500’s when Mercatos and Ortelius, cartographers from Europe, put the Galapagos Islands on the map (10). Pirates were the first to take advantage of the islands in the 17th century, because of their strategic location and they continued to benefit from them over the next three hundred years (9). Even though the pirates never settled on the Galápagos, their interaction with the wildlife was significant. Tortoises, because of their size and their ability to live for over a year without food, were a great source of sustenance and pirates carried them on their ships for their long journeys. It is estimated that in 200 years over 200,000 tortoises were taken. On some islands, tortoises became extinct (10). The pirates were not the only ones using the natural resources of these islands. Whalers killed tortoises, whales and other marine wildlife. In 1788, Samuel Enderby & Sons, a British whaling company, sponsored one of the first major whale hunts. An astounding 140 tons of whale oil and 888 sealskins were taken on that whale hunt alone. Patrick Watkins was the first person to live on the Galapagos. This Irishman settled on Floreana Island in 1805 and lived on the vegetables he planted and what he traded with the whalers. He left in 1809 (9). In 1831, General José María de Villamil Joly saw the economic opportunities the Galapagos had to offer and in 1832, Ecuador’s first president General Juan José Flores, annexed the archipelago as territory of the Republic of Ecuador (9). The first colonists were soldiers who settled on Floreana Island (named after General Flores). After a failed coup on the mainland, more soldiers went to live on the island. They brought domestic animals like cattle, pigs, goats and donkeys. This was the first introduction of new species to the islands. The colonists cut down forests to create pastures and also planted crops. This settlement failed by 1852 (9).
Wall of tears, located on Isabela Island.
In 1858, another attempt at colonization was initiated. Manuel J. Cobos, José Monroy and José Valdizán created the Orchillera Company. This endeavour failed but Cobos moved on to San Cristobal Island and tried to produce sugar, coffee and tortoise oil. Cobos used prisoners for labour and was assassinated in 19049. The next attempt to settle Floreana was in 1893 by Antonio Gil. This third attempt did not work out either so he moved to Isabela. By 1905, 200 people lived on Isabela. They exported lime and sulfur and used tortoises for meat and oil. They also mined salt. Around 1925, Norwegians settled in Floreana and San Cristobal. They wanted to set up a whaling station but that did not work out so they moved to Santa Cruz. This attempt also failed but some Norwegians stayed on9. In 1929, Germans arrived at Floreana and Santa Cruz and worked with the Norwegian colony. They all lived off of farming and fishing. San Cristóbal was more attractive to colonists because of its relatively easy access to water. This was the most highly populated island until the 1960s9. Another interesting fact about the colonization of the Galapagos Islands is that the Ecuadorian government set up penal colonies on Floreana and San Cristobal in the 19th century. In 1944 a third colony was set up on Isabela. In 1958, after a rebellion due to the horrifically cruel treatment the prisoners received, the prison was closed. To this day the “Wall of Tears” remains as a testimony to the suffering endured by the prisoners9. The population of the Galapagos Islands in the early 1970’s was around 4000. By 2007 the population numbered 20,000. Today there are 25,000 legal residents, 1,800 temporary residents and approximately 5,000 more “irregular” residents11. In the 60’s tourists became interested in visiting the Galapagos and this contributed to the growth in population. Over the past 15 years, the gross income that tourism has generated for the islands is calculated at over 14% per year. In 2012, 170,000 tourists visited the Islands12 (Figure 3).
Figure 3- Graph of Galapagos population growth and number of tourists between 1950 and 2012.13
Inmigration Emigration Population
Tourism Public Sector (Fishing)
Demand for resources and services Increased affluence Access to resources and services
Flights Cargo fuel
Over harvest Habitat change
Invasive species polution
Figure 4- Cycle of population growth and subsequent repercussions.13
Figure 413 illustrates the Cycle of growth in the Galapagos Islands. The two main negative aspects that we see from this chart are due to more inhabitants and more tourists. This causes a habitat change because of migration. More resources are needed due to increased demands. More tourists visit the islands, there is more available money and the standard of living rises. Then there is a need for immigrant labor, which increases the population. The vicious circle of population increase is clearly shown in the diagram. Researchers have been studying the impact of an increase in population and tourists on the flora and fauna. Ecosystems are made up of thousands a species in the Galapagos and their interactions are far from being fully understood. A very interesting example of how humans impact wildlife is reported in a paper by French et at14. In this report the team studied corticosterone levels in marine iguanas in two different venues. They compared findings of iguana living in undisturbed populations with iguana living in places where there is ecotourism. The hormone levels of the population of iguanas living in spaces exposed to tourists were statistically significantly higher. This is a clear marker of higher stress levels. If the corticosterone levels of this population of marine iguana are higher, the immunological responses are affected. This example illustrates the impact of one species in an environment with a low-level of anthropogenic disturbance. What happens to these animals if they live under even less favorable conditions? Since the Galapagos is a focus-point for ecologists and scientists, there are many research teams trying to better some of the speciesâ€™ environment. An example is the work that Wolff et al are doing on Galapagos Sea Cucumber fishery15. They monitor and propose the annual catch of these marine animals. Although the population is depleted in some areas, efforts are being made to control the fishing of these animals, which are a sought-after delicacy in many cuisines. In order to carry out this study, they found a new way to calculate the stock size, recording how fishing has exceeded the stock and consequently they propose new fishing quotas.
Boat refueling at Baquerizo Moreno Port, San Cristobal.
Conservation History â€œBut man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.â€? -Rachel Carson
Opuntia echios cactus trunk. 27
Isabela Island beach.
Totoise Breeding Center. Isabela Island. 30
Galapagos designated a wildlife sanctuary
The Research Station began work on invasive species
1959 97% of its terrestial are declared Natona Park
Reviewing the existence of human life in the Galapagos Islands is significant because of its interaction with nature. Man is a rational creature and, in opposition to other living entities, is not driven solely by instinct. He is intelligent and he has free will, which gives him a privileged situation17. Man has always tried, in some way, to dominate and use nature to his favor. He not only picked wild fruit, but also figured out how to cultivate it. He has learned to store water and use it for his needs. Every human interaction has had effects on nature, some more positive than others, and, at times, has lead to the full abuse of certain natural resources disregarding the consequences that such improper use could have on the immediate environment as well as, long term effects, for human beings themselves. This is true in the history of the world and, in our case, the history of the Galapagos. Due to the secluded situation of the Galapagos, the late colonization of the islands and the efforts conservationists made early on, these islands have maintained much of their biodiversity. Compared to other areas of the world, the Galapagos are far ahead, when it comes to conservation. The timeline above and below shows the constant effort conscious ecologists and conservationists have made to maintain the biodiversity. Despite this ceaseless labor, much has been lost. This makes these conservation efforts necessary to continue, improve and increase to halt the negative effects of human life and its use and abuse of nature. In 2007, the Galapagos were listed as a â€œworldwide heritage in dangerâ€?16. Increasing population and tourists were some of the factors listed as constant threats to the flora and fauna of the Galapagos and a subsequent call for action was made to try to control these factors. One of the regulations passed was the above-mentioned Special Law of 199818, by which migration limits were set. The limitations included the status of permanent residents granted only to those born in the Galapagos, those who had lived there for over five years prior to 1998, and their dependents. Since then, temporary permits are only available for employees whose sponsors can justify a need for their special skills. The goal of this law is to severely reduce migration flows to the islands and help protect the environment.
Figure 5- Timeline16.
Galapagos decclared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
Galapagos Marine Reserve ceated
Marine Reserve declared by UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site
1990 1984 Galapagos declares a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO
Galapagos Special Law created
UNESCO placed the Galapagos Islands on its Endangered Worlds Heritage list
Puerto Chino, San Cristobal. 33
Native Species â€œIt is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.â€? -Charles Darwin
Amblyrhynchus cristatus or marine iguana.Isabela Island.
Heliotropium angiospermum or scorpionâ€™s tail. Native to Galapagos. 36
Due to the location, the winds and the currents of the Galapagos Islands, the climate is very unusual for the tropics7. The warm season, from January to May, is produced by warm ocean currents originating in Panama and the cool season, from June to December, is induced by the Humboldt Current which brings cold water from the Antarctic along the west coast of South America and then moves to the west across the Galapagos creating lower temperatures. The precipitation during the warm season is made up of sporadic heavy showers but during the cool season the skies are mostly cloudy with little rain in the lowlands but in the highlands the atmosphere is persistently wet because of light rain and mist. EL Niño and la Niña phenomena, bringing more rain and cool, dry wind and cool ocean currents respectively, happen every 3-6 years. All these cyclic changes in climate have an important effect on the flora and fauna of the Galapagos, how life arrived on the islands and how it evolved7. It is well documented that scientists do not believe that the Galapagos was part of mainland South America. Researchers believe that every plant and animal species originated someplace other than the Galapagos. The flora and fauna began from the Caribbean, North and South America and even the Antarctic. At present, most scientists believe in the long distance dispersal theory. That is the reason why many common animals are not found in the islands. Amphibians and many other aquatic animals are scarce. Large terrestrial mammals did not find their way there either, but this lack of herbivorous mammals left space for the tortoises to graze and peacefully multiply. Birds carrying seeds and invertebrates on their feathers dispersed new life onto the islands. Vegetation, acting as improvised rafts drifting with the currents transported animals and plants to the islands. For example an iguana could fall into a river, find a branch to hang onto, float down to the ocean and arrive a few weeks later on the islands. Reptiles under these circumstances have much more chance of surviving than mammals19. Over the passage of thousands of years, animals evolve to adapt to their circumstances. It is thought that only one species of finch arrived on the Galapagos Islands and over time 14 subspecies of finch have evolved there. Some of the species live in trees, others on the ground, some only fly, others fly but also hop around, some eat seeds and others eat insects. Their beaks have evolved according to their necessities (Figure 6). Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos Islands in 1835 influenced him to become an evolutionist. He visited the island for five weeks. He was a geologist so he understood the volcanic formation. He made observations such as how some of the birds were like birds from mainland South America. He also noticed when he studied the birds later when he got home, that each island had its own species that evolved into subspecies. Years later, he published On the Origin of Species, which revolutionized scientific thought.
Geochelone chatamensis or giant tortoise species endemic to San Cristobal.
“…by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings…I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted.” -Charles Darwin.
Sula nebouxii or blue-footed booby. It is found exclusively in the Pacific, from California to Peru. 41
Geospiza fortis or medium ground finch. Endemic to the Galapagos.
Figure 5: Darwin described how species evolve, using the finch as an example, and explained how the beak adapted to different ecological niches. This phenomenon was later named adaptive radiation.
Grapsus grapsus or sally lightfoot crab one of the most common crabs along the western coast of the Americas.
Introduced Species â€œDestroying species is like tearing pages out of an unread book, written in a language humans hardly know how to read, about the place where they live.â€? -Holmes Rolston III
Canis lupus or domestic dog, an introduced species in the Galapagos. 47
Bryophyllum pinnatum or air plant. Introduced species.
Felis silvestris catus or domestic cat. Found abandoned at the recycling plant, Santa Cruz Island.
Since the 1600’s, when humans first began visiting the Galapagos, new species began to be introduced. At present, only two of the mayor islands remain intact with no introduced mammals. The newly introduced species began with rats and mice from the ships that found their way to shore. When colonizers began to settle, they brought cats, goats, horses, cattle, pigs and donkeys. The introduction of these species happened so quickly that the native animals and plants could not defend themselves and consequently the effect has been devastating. Just to mention a few examples on Santiago Island wild pigs eat turtle eggs, on Santa Cruz, wild dogs attack land iguanas and rats have done away with the giant tortoise hatchling population on the Island of Pinzón. Goats have annihilated plant species and their rapid reproduction rate further heightens the problem. Just to review how real the threat is there are close to 800 alien plants20, 30 invertebrates that have been introduced and close to 300 invasive insects documented. Another fascinating and disturbing fact about the introduction of plants, vertebrates and insects is that their rate of introduction is enormously high compared to natural establishment rates. Plants are 10 thousand times higher, vertebrates 1,25 thousand times higher and insects 1,2 thousand times higher. The reason the rapid introduction of these species is because natural ecological processes are altered and the indigenous population decreases giving space for the introduced species to thrive. Some of these introduced species are predators and can outcompete the native population. They also bring diseases and serve as vectors and hosts. Interesting research is being carried out on native plant species in the Galapagos. Coffey et al20 have looked into macrofossil evidence to clarify, which plant species are native and which are not. They report that there are 750 nonnative plant species in Galapagos and there are 62 more that are classified as doubtful natives. They have identified six of the doubtful natives as natives and this information is vital in conserving and restoring biodiversity. Exciting work is being done to remedy damage that has been done by introduced species. Here are just a few examples. To fight parasites that have infested nests of Darwin finches, fumigated cotton has been put in nests, protecting the birds and their young from the introduced parasitic nest fly Philornis downsi21. Enormous amounts of money have been spent on goat-irradiation. Some programs were very successful, others ridiculously expensive and harmful like shooting the goats from helicopters, but the bottom line is that where more money needs to be invested is in education and punishing those who maliciously reintroduce goats to the islands22. Frugivory and seed dispersal is also currently under study in the Galapagos and gaps in the knowledge of how seeds are dispersed are being filled23. Again, the importance of educating locals to manage situations is essential in controlling introduction of new species through the seeds of fruits.
Equus ferus caballus or domestic horses. Introduced species in the Galapagos.
Farming & Livestock â€œIf we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.â€? -Joseph Wood Krutch
Coffea arabica or arabica coffee. Indigenous to the Ethiopian mountains.
Harvested and processed coffee in the highlands of Santa Cruz.
Farmer collecting greenhouse tomatoes,Santa Cruz Island. 58
Since the first settlers inhabited the islands, they began to farm. They cultivated the food they knew from the mainland and introduced new species into the GalĂĄpagos. It has been a struggle for conservationists to educate farmers on sustainable farming. Farms are anywhere from 2-200 acres on the islands and it is difficult to maintain introduced species from growing wild24. Ecuador was the first country in September 2008 to include food sovereignty in their constitution25. Food sovereignty is about the right of peoples to define their own food systems26. Chapter 3 of the Constitution states â€œfood sovereignty is a strategic objective and an obligation of the state that persons, communities, peoples and nations achieve self-sufficiency with respect to healthy and culturally appropriate food on a permanent basisâ€? (Asamblea Nacional, 2008)27. Food sovereignty and biodiversity are intimately linked in the Galapagos. It is important in this outlying region because it is so costly to import food27. Land management projects are more successful when the economic interests of the farmers are merged with conservation goals24. In the Galapagos, all farming land is surrounded by protected land. It is very hard to keep the invasive species within the limits of the designated farming land. Common guava (Psidium guajava) is one the biggest problem for farmers on Isabela. Pesticides are not allowed and insects are also a problem. Other challenges for farmers are labour, machinery and transportation of their crops. The good news is a new organic farming grassroots industry is beginning to take hold. Organic coffee is even being exported28. Many good initiatives are arising like FUNDAR (Foundation for Alternative Responsible Development in the Galapagos), which has a demonstration farm on Santa Cruz to educate local farmers24. Here once again, education is essential in cultivating without losing land to introduced species.
Farmersâ€™ market on Santa Cruz Island. This market is held every Saturday.
Meat stand at the farmersâ€™ market, Santa Cruz.
Sus domesticus or domestic pig. Farm on Santa Cruz.
Cooked pork and plantain chips ready to be served. Farmersâ€™ market. Santa Cruz.
View of highlands from Cerro Verde. Santa Cruz Island.
Fishing “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” - Gaylord Nelson
Fish ready to be sold. Farmersâ€™ market. Santa Cruz. 69
Santa Cruzâ€™s fish market. Pelicans and sea lions waiting to be fed with the leftovers.
Edgar et al, in the scientific journal Nature29, underline the five key features that create a positive outcome in Marine Protected Areas (MPA). These key features are first, no fishing, second, that regulations be well enforced, third, that these regulations be in place for over 10 years old, fourth, that the marine area to be protected is over 100â€‰km and lastly, that the areas are isolated by deep water or sand. Unfortunately it cannot be said that the GalĂĄpagos Marine Protected Area (GMPA) is succeeding in all five features. The GMPA is an area of 133,000 square kilometers. It surrounds the islands and the eastern Pacific Ocean towards Ecuador. Fishing is allowed in some parts of the MPA and is an important source of income for the local population30. Commercial fishing began in the 1930â€™s and now is the second most important economic activity in the Islands. The lobster and sea cucumber fisheries are important sources of income to the local population, and fishermen from Ecuador regularly travel to the area in search of dorado, shark, and tuna. Scientists and fishermen regularly monitor the number and health of the fish and crustacean populations. Scientists with the GMPA train local residents in sustainable fishing practices. Great efforts are being made to limit fishing licenses (called PARMA) and new strategies are being enforced. The weak points in the regulations have been identified and their implementation is trying to be applied according to the 2011-2012 Galapagos Report31.
Fish stand. Farmersâ€™ market. Santa Cruz. 72
Fishermenâ€™s Warf at night. Santa Cruz. 75
Stone Extraction â€œOrganisms, ways of life, and interactions in the biosphere in general, exhibit complexity of such an astoundingly high level as to color the general outlook of ecologists. Such complexity makes thinking in terms of vast systems inevitable. It also makes for a keen, steady perception of the profound human ignorance of biospherical relationships and therefore of the effect of disturbances.â€? -Arne Naess
Construction workers extracting stone from the Cerro Quemado mine. San Cristobal Island.
Cerro Quemado mine entrance. San Cristobal.
Construction materials from the mine being used to repave road. San Cristobal.
The Galapagos Islands are volcanic in formation and the base is composed of basaltic rock and small lava cones. The beaches are made up of red and black rock. As the demand for more construction rises, rock extraction has become an industry. The stone is used for brick manufacturing, for housing, private road maintenance and public works. The main rock extraction mines are located on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela Islands. The mines on Santa Cruz Island are Granillo Rojo and Granillo Negro. On San Cristobal Cerro Quemado Progreso, Cementerio and Los Canalones. On Isabela there are a few small places for extraction, all in protected areas of the Galapagos National Park32. The Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is the institution that controls the mining. It is their responsibility to issue permits and collect fees for the installation of the equipment needed to mine. Sand was initially used for construction but due to its high organic content and it’s salinity, it was considered very low quality. At present, sand extraction is prohibited. The use of stone in Galapagos is for construction but when you touch and upset the natural balance of nature, there are always consequences. Pilot plans to reorganize the mines in the Galapagos are under way. There is a lot of pressure to extract rock for houses and hotels and thus over-exploiting this natural resource. Extracting rock not only entails obtaining the rock, they have to get to the designated site by chopping down trees to make a road for vehicles to get in, then they have to bring in the machinery needed to extract the rock. The extracted rock has to be loaded onto trucks and transported to where it will be used. Another aspect, not thought about enough is the noise pollution rock extraction causes. This acoustic problem is not only a stress factor for humans, but of course it is a terrible stress factor for animals. Rock extraction mines are also an “eye sore” in such a unique venue but also the act of mining also uses other resources and pollutes. Dust is created; garbage is left as well as human excrement. The terrain where the rocks are extracted undergoes first deforestation and then erosion. Reforestation is part of the Pilot Plan to protect these mining sites33. It is interesting to see that rock extraction upsets nature’s balance and indirectly affects everything around the mining site.
Cerro Quemado mine. San Cristobal.
Workers using extracted stone for construction.
Waste Mangement â€œThe greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.â€? -Robert Swan
Compacted scrap ready to be sent to mainland Ecuador to be recycled. San Cristobal recycling plant.
Plastic that has failed to be recycled at San Cristobalâ€™s recycling plant.
Cans that have been separated to recycle. Santa Cruzâ€™s recycling plant. 90
Galapagos National Park Service is responsible for waste management in the islands2. Marine pollution is an ever growing problem; tourism ships not only dispose of their organic waste in the waters but ships also dump plastics like bags and bottles which affect marine life because many times these plastics become deadly traps for birds, fish and turtles. Galapagos Islands produce less organic waste than mainland Ecuador because much of what the residents receive is semi-processed or processed food16. It has been calculated that every ten years the amount of garbage that is generated in the Galapagos, doubles. The first efforts by the Galapagos National Park Service, The Galapagos Foundation and the Municipality to recycle began at the end of the 1990â€™s on Santa Cruz Island when a recycling center was created. Later, with money from the European Union, a recycling plant and compost center were constructed between 2003-2006. This money also bought a waste compactor truck and a project manager was hired. Toyota stepped in to this on-going project in 2006 and expanded the recycling center, donated a mechanical composter and donated 7,500 waste containers to households for waste separation. Education programs were funded. They also worked on the impact of the sanitary landfill. They created a new waste collection system expanding to rural areas and to boats and redesigned street cleaning in order for litter to be reduced. Education again played an important role and workshops were held for the municipal street cleaning team. The lessons learned were that long term conservation is possible in the Galapagos but only by involving and educating the local population. At present there are long term actions in place defining the steps that need to be taken over the next years until 2020. By that year, Toyota plans to put into place an integrated waste management and recycling system16.
Workers separating trash to be recycled. Santa Cruz recycling plant.
Final Reflexions “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela.
Isabela Island beach. 95
Street on San Cristobal.
Galapagos flycatcher (Myiarchus magnirostris). Santa Cruz.
The various chapters in this book have reviewed the Galapagos Islands; from their formation and various aspects of their historical development, to the current status of the Islands, to the factors contributing to the need to conserve the islands as well as the efforts being made to this end. The goal of this book is to highlight the importance of nature to humanity through the case study of the Galapagos. Specifically, this book has described the uniqueness of these islands as a “living laboratory”, which has been the subject of study and the source of inspiration to many, including Darwin. Most efforts to help preserve the Galapagos Islands have focused on decreasing the population flows, lowering the number of invasive species and protecting certain areas. Although these efforts are significant, they do not carry with them the urgency and call to action that conservation requires. More than prohibiting, in order to achieve the goal of conservation, people should be made aware of its importance so they can take responsibility as opposed to standing by, following rules in fear of punishment. The only way this can be achieved effectively is through education. Education is the tool used to help instil the most valued principles in a given society. If Environmental Ethics were at the core of the educational system, people’s attitudes and behaviours would be based on respect for nature, as opposed to the current state of indifference or the feeling of superiority toward it. We, as humans, are a part of nature. We have intelligence, which enables us to use the world around us as resources. Inherently, that is not negative, but rather, normal. The problem comes when there is an irresponsible use of these resources, contributing to their depletion, destroying ecosystems and making species extinct along the way. Change is the only constant, and evolution is a live process. Our role in it, however, should utilize our intelligence to further what is best for the world keeping in mind a sustainable future in lieu of fulfilling our immediate needs in the short term disregarding how that affects life around us. Education is the key to accomplishing the goal of having people accept the responsibility of caring for the natural environment of which we are a part. This measure is not only necessary in the Galapagos, but, in the world. Beginning with education of the native population, these standards could become the core values for the generations to come. This knowledge could also spread, as the need to share it with those visiting becomes inevitable. It is by planting the seed through education, that the future generations will enjoy the fruits of sustainable practices. Seeing the results of conservation, forthcoming “Galapagueños” will better comprehend the astounding treasure they have the privilege to be part of and thus be an example to the world.
Galapagos sea lion (Zakophus wollebaeki) walking down the road.
Volunteers collecting trash on the beach, San Cristobal.
Volunteers collecting trash. San Cristobal. 101
La Loberia beach. San Cristobal. 103
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Sunset. San Cristobal.