The Galapagos Islands are isolated in the Pacific Ocean. The closest mainland to the Galapagos Islands is Ecuador. Nineteen islands make up the unique Galapagos Islands; thirteen islands are major islands (Galapagos Island Information, n.d.). The Galapagos Islands hold many unique species that cannot be found elsewhere in the world, such as the Galapagos giant tortoise, the Galapagos land iguana, and various flora. Because of the uniqueness of its flora and fauna, the Galapagos Islands are popular with tourists. The Galapagos Islands are unique because they offer a glimpse into a world without humans and must be preserved for its unique ecosystem without any more human interference.
The Galapagos Islands hold many diverse species. Some species include the land iguana, giant tortoise, and unique native plants. There are two species of land iguana (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). Land iguanas eat mostly plant material and can live for over 50 years (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). According to Galapagos Conservation Trust (2008), “The land iguanas show a fascinating interaction with Darwin’s finches, raising themselves off the ground and allowing the little birds to remove ticks” (¶ 2). The Galapagos giant tortoise is very unique because of its gigantism. According to Galapagos Conservation Trust (2008), “…gigantism evolves because there is no longer any need to hide from predators and because there are no other similar animals to compete with for food” (¶ 5). The giant tortoise can live for more than 100 years and is the most well known of all the species on the Galapagos Islands (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). According to Galapagos Conservation Trust (2008), “There are about 560 native species of plants in the islands, in other words, plants which arrived in the islands by natural means” (¶ 2). The flora is unique because there are not many insects to pollinate flowers or animals to disperse the fruit, so their flowers are especially big and colorful to attract insects and animals to them (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008).
Therefore, because of the diversity of life on the islands, there are many biological interrelationships. According to Galapagos Conservation Trust (2008), “The giant tortoises and land iguanas, for example, feed on Opuntia, the prickly pear cactus, and have influenced its growth form on different islands” (¶ 3). Evidence of the food chain on the Galapagos Islands is seen. For example, marine iguanas eat seaweed, and the sharks eat the marine iguanas. The birds eat parasites off of the tortoises and iguanas. Humans that live on and off of the islands hunt and fish for the animals. The Galapagos Giant tortoise, as mentioned before, grew large from the absence of many predators (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). For a long time, all the animals and plants on the Galapagos Islands had developed biological interrelationships that did not include humans.
However, human intrusion has had a negative effect on the delicate ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. Humans have brought non-native plants and animals to the islands that threaten the native plants and animals. Non-native plants can overrun the native plants and threaten them with extinction. Non-native animals can threaten both flora and fauna. According to Environmental Issues of the Galapagos (2008), “Feral dogs, most likely imported to the Islands as mascots of early settlers, have been a threat to tortoise eggs, native iguana species and even penguins” (¶ 9). Goats that had been brought to the island by humans also may have been responsible for the extinction of several flora species (Environmental Issues of the Galapagos, 2008). Humans also hunt and kill the native species of animals, sometimes simply because of the animals uniqueness. Economic development is another threat to the ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. According to Environmental Issues of the Galapagos (2008), “The Galapagos population has increased over 300% in the past few decades” (¶ 5). Over-fishing is prevalent. Many fish to get shark fins from the sharks that live in the waters off of the coasts of the islands. With an increase in humans, there is also an increase of garbage and consumption of natural resources. These increases threaten the entire ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands.
Consequently, the Galapagos Islands must be protected. According to Galapagos Island Conservation, Colonization, Destruction & Preservation (n.d.), “The Ecuadorian government declared the Galapagos Islands a National Park in1959, but it wasn’t until 1968 when the park limits where established on a [sic] 95% of the islands” (¶ 13). Park rules were also made and enforced, such as not allowing visitors to bring non-native materials to the parks, not feeding or disturbing the animals in any way, and no littering (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). Many of these rules are common sense rules that should be followed everywhere, not just in the Galapagos Islands. According to Galapagos Island Conservation, Colonization, Destruction & Preservation (n.d.), “Seeking for an accurate control of people coming in and out of the islands, in 2008 the government authorize [sic] to collect a fee the Transit Control Card, also stoped [sic] the migration to the islands” (¶ 13).
In addition to the protections already in place, other protection efforts are underway to protect the species of the Galapagos Islands. According to Environmental Issues of the Galapagos (2008), “Environmental education efforts on the Islands help their inhabitants understand the larger picture and need for conservation, and responsible tourism and enforced park guidelines help preserve the Galapagos for the future” (¶ 10). Protection for the tortoises of the islands is essential in order to help the native flora thrive. According to Galapagos Conservation Trust (2008), “Tortoises have a major impact on the structure and composition of their environment, increasing germination rates and dispersing seeds” (¶ 4). Many wild goats have been removed from the islands that destroy flora and threaten to endanger them (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). Shark conservation efforts are underway to ensure stable shark populations (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). Another way to protect the islands is through funding for PhD students from the Galapagos and Ecuador to become scientists to further study and protect the Galapagos Islands (Galapagos Conservation Trust, 2008). Research is needed to understand the diversity of the islands.
Though many projects seem overwhelming, individuals can do some things to help protect the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands. Individuals can donate to conservation projects with their time or their money. Funding is constantly needed to fuel important conservation projects and studies. When visiting the islands, simply following the rules will help to protect the wildlife that live in the Galapagos Islands. Encouraging others to do the same will spread the goodwill efforts. Do not buy products made from Galapagos animals. This further endangers the animals and encourages the animals’ trappers to hunt them more. Spreading knowledge about the Galapagos Islands will inform and perhaps interest others in conserving the islands and its inhabitants. Not moving to the Galapagos Islands will have less human and economic impacts on the islands. Even not visiting the islands can help by having less tourism and impact on the islands. The less humans impact the islands, the safer the plants and animals will be from certain destruction.
In conclusion, the Galapagos Islands are a rare insight into the world before human impact. Its plants and animals are numerous, rare and unique. Their interactions between each other are very evident in the biological interrelationships that have been ongoing, mostly uninterrupted, for centuries. Unfortunately, human impact has changed some of the ways the ecosystems function. Some species have become extinct or are endangered. Cons
ervation efforts must be done to ensure the protection of the islands and to study how the various species on the island interact in an uninterrupted as possible environment. By knowing how these species interact on the Galapagos Islands, we can better understand how other species all over the world evolved.
“Environmental Issues of the Galapagos”. Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Conservation Trust. “Galapagos Flora”. GCT.
Galapagos Conservation Trust. “Galapagos Giant Tortoise”. GCT.
Galapagos Conservation Trust. “Galapagos Land Iguanas”. GCT.
Galapagos Conservation Trust. “Why Conserve the Galapagos?”. GCT.
“Galapagos Island Conservation, Colonization, Destruction, and Preservation”. Galasam.
“Galapagos Island Information”. Galapagos Islands.