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The Galapagos Islands and Climate Change

The Galápagos Islands are in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 605 miles off the west coast of South America. They are part of the Republic of Ecuador and are an archipelago of volcanic islands. Ecuador annexed the islands in 1832, three years after their independence from Spain, as part of the wider South American independence movement to escape the shackles of Spain’s domination in South America.

The Galápagos Islands are astonishing with a comfortable climate, superlative ocean, beautiful beaches, and a unique wildlife. The Islands are home to many endemic animals and plants. These animals that are not found in any other areas on the globe include – Marine and Land Iguanas, Giant Tortoise, Darwin’s Finches, Large Painted Locust, Lava Lizards, Flightless Cormorant, Fur Seal, Wave Albatross, and many more. In addition, the surrounding waters contain – Orca Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Sperm Whales, Minke Whales, Common Dolphins, and more. This menagerie of beautiful creates is unrivaled anywhere else in the world.

With its unmatched natural beauty and unique variety of wildlife the Galápagos Islands have become a prime tourist destination. The Islands became a national park in 1959, and tourism started in the 1960s. However, the growth of both the tourism industry and local populations have threatened both land and sea species, in and around the Galápagos Islands.

The marine sanctuary is under threat from illegal fishing activities, in addition to other development problems that come with a growing Island population. Introduced plants and animals, such as feral goats, cats, and cattle, brought accidentally or willingly to the islands by humans, represent another threat to Galápagos. Quick to reproduce and with no natural predators, these alien species decimated the habitats of native species. The native animals, lacking natural predators on the islands, are defenseless to introduced predators.

Climate Change poses even more threatening consequences to the Islands. El Nino adversely affects the marine ecosystem, by increasing water temperatures around the Islands. Cold water, which is rich in nutrients, does not make it to the surface causing fish and algae to die off and animals that feed off them face starvation.

To save the fragile ecosystem of the Galápagos Islands naturalists have been working hard to keep it protected thru Ecosystem restoration, tackling invasive species, supporting cutting edge research, and promoting Galapagos as a mode for the world. Recently these Naturalists helped to expand the Galápagos Islands Reserve by 23k acres. With the continued oversight of the Naturalists and Ecuadorian government, some of these ecological threats may be diminished.

Reducing our carbon footprint here in the Rockaways has an effect not only on our local environment but also on ecosystems as far from us as the Galápagos Islands. By reducing our carbon footprint and taking care of nature locally, we help protect the entire planet from the effects of climate change. Become an environmental advocate for our children and grandchildren!

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