The previous blog post spoke about the numerous threats Galapagos is facing from expected climate change within the next century. However, it shouldn’t all be seen as doom and gloom as multiple adaptation and mitigation strategies are already in progress…
In the last 60 years the human population of the Islands has increased from 2,000 to around 30,000, all of which require housing and infrastructure to make their lives comfortable. The danger when populations increase so rapidly is that the consequential building work is done in an unmanaged and unsustainable manner. The Galapagos Sustainable Buildings Project is a recent joint venture between the Galapagos Conservation Trust, Charles Darwin Foundation and Princes Foundation for Building Community with the goal of reducing the human impact on the Islands through sustainable development. The project looks at reducing the energy and water needs of buildings and not only looks at rejuvenating existing infrastructure but also showcasing best practice ideas for the locals to copy when building new structures.
Monitoring of threatened species
Multiple programmes are underway which ensure frequent and in-depth monitoring of species and habitats at risk from climate change across the Islands. GCT has funded several projects including the Penguin and Flightless Cormorant Monitoring Project which aims to assess the health and stability of populations. Galapagos penguin colonies can also be a useful indicator of the health of the marine environment due to their reliance on it for food. Increased sea surface temperatures and reductions in upwellings lead to the cold-water fish which penguins feed upon migrating away from the Islands, affecting penguins and a whole host of other species. This not only leads to the death of weaker individuals but also results in breeding seasons being skipped, affecting the ability of future generations to be able to replenish populations. By closely monitoring colonies, it allows for management decisions to be made with the most up-to-date data and enables managers to gauge whether or not existing conservation measures are working effectively.
Education and Community Awareness
Another important aspect to all projects is the dissemination of information to locals and tourists to make them aware of the fragile nature of the Islands and what they can do to help protect them. This can and is being done both on and off the Islands: the Charles Darwin Foundation has education centres on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal with informative displays for all visitors; the Galapagos National Park Service ensure that all park guides are trained and educated with the skills and information necessary to prevent impacts to the areas visited; and a new GCT project which launches later this year is a bilingual online education tool called Discovering Galapagos which will allow students and the general public to learn about these unique Islands and the conservation issues they face.
While the experts may still be unsure exactly how climate change will affect the planet, almost everyone is in agreement that there will be significant changes in our lifetimes. The projects mentioned plus many more will hopefully ensure the islands are as prepared as possible for what is to come.
If you would like to contribute to any of the above projects or for further information, please visit the respective website:
Sustainable Galapagos www.sustainablegalapagos.org
Penguin Appeal www.penguinappeal.org
by James Medland