Category: Equador, Galapagos.

Scientific Foundation Warns of “Challenges” to Galapagos Conservation

QUITO – The Charles Darwin Foundation, or FDC, based in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, warned of “challenges” in the coming years to the conservation of the archipelago’s fragile ecosystem with species found nowhere else in the world.

Speaking on the subject was Gabriel Lopez, executive director of the FCD, who presented in Quito a report on the organization’s activities in 2009, the year of its 50th anniversary, and on the outlook for 2010.

Lopez said that this year the foundation plans to continue with three “emblematic” projects launched in 2009 – measuring the “human footprint” on the archipelago, studying the consequences of climate change, and the “comprehensive” restoration of Floreana Island in the southern part of the archipelago.

He recalled that the Galapagos are on the List of World Heritage in Danger sites and said that the archipelago in coming years will meet with a series of “challenges” to the preservation of its “fragile ecosystem.”

With regard to climate change, the “great challenge to humanity in the 21st century,” Lopez said that the Ecuadorian islands will act as “an ideal laboratory” for compiling “highly trustworthy” data on the effects of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

According to Lopez, the data gathered on that phenomenon and a number scientific forecasts lead to the conclusion that “it is almost certain that El Niño events will be more frequent, more intense” and could have a “devastating impact on the island’s endemic species like sea lions and marine iguanas.”

The scientist also said that in the next few months the FCD will organize a series of workshops and forums on sustainable development with the participation of scientists from several different countries. The idea is to hold them regularly after the first one is held in March.

These workshops will deal with water management, transportation, energy, housing and tourism, the latter, in his opinion, “very important” because of the need “to launch a wide-ranging debate on the tourism model” for the islands, with the goal of maintaining ecosystem conservation.

The FCD executive director described as last year’s “important landmarks” the acts celebrating the foundation’s 50 years in operation, including the visit of Britain’s Prince Charles and an international symposium attended by more than 100 internationally prominent scientists.

He also mentioned that the foundation is preparing a book containing the most relevant conclusions of the scientific meeting as well as the different activities carried out with the local community to raise awareness and educate the inhabitants on the conservation of the islands.

“We should be proud of our work in 2009, but now the foundation and the Galapagos Islands face the most challenging days of their history,” he said.

The presentation of the report took place at a ceremony also attended by Ecuador’s Environment Minister Marcela Aguiñaga, who was officially accepted as a member of “The 100 Partners of the Galapagos.”

The Galapagos Islands owe their name to the large tortoises living there, and their land and sea reserves contain a rich biodiversity considered a natural laboratory that allowed British scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution and the natural selection of species.

The archipelago is located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of the contiental coast of Ecuador. EFE

Category: Equador, Galapagos
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