Saving the Galapagos
May 8, 2013
Increased tourism is exposing the Galapagos Islands’ unique and sensitive biodiversity to destructive invasive species, including feral domestic animals, aggressive weedy plants, various insect pests, and alien marine organisms. These invaders arrive from the mainland and rapidly multiply in the natural ecosystems and abandoned farms, outcompeting the local fauna and flora, and changing entire ecosystems that exist nowhere else in the world.
“In spite of excellent management and meticulous policing of ecotourism, a full-blown ecological disaster is unfolding before our eyes,” explains Prof. Ariel Novoplansky, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.
Prof. Novoplansky was part of an Israeli delegation that recently visited the Galapagos for meetings and field excursions with managers, rangers, policy-makers, farmers, and conservation experts. This led to the establishment of a cooperation agreement between the University’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Galapagos National Park to aid conservation of the endangered archipelago’s diverse animal and plant life.
According to Novoplansky, “Our project is based on a new premise, whereby agricultural development is not necessarily used as a tool for increasing food production, fighting poverty and improving the standard of living.”
“Carefully crafted agricultural practices will be implemented that combat and prevent the destructive effects of invasive species, the fate of which we are all so anxious about.”
A joint Ecuadorian-Israeli team will develop and implement methodologies to increase local agricultural production and reduce the islands’ dependency on fresh produce imported from the mainland.
The Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park invited the delegation. In spite of more than 50 years of dedicated management and conservation, the conservation policies alone are no longer sufficient.