Galapagos invasive species:

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Human activities have a negative impact on protected areas

The demographic growth of the human population in Galapagos results in increasing pressure on the goods and services generated by the Galapagos National Park ecosystems. One example of this is shown by the results of an ecological evaluation carried out in 2002 by the Galapagos National Park Service, the body responsible for the administration and management of protected areas in Galapagos, in various Special Use Zone (SUZ) sites on Santa Cruz island: the Red Gravel mine which is a stone extraction site; the rubbish dump; and the peak of Crocker Hill where cell phone and VHF radio transmission antennas are sited.

As a general conclusion it could be seen that the presence of human activities within the protected area generated a big negative impact, due to the fact that each site within SUZ acted as a focal point for the arrival and dispersion of introduced species and, although the study was restricted to a single island, it is clear that the same pattern would be repeated in the other inhabited islands.

In general, the flora, birds and crawling terrestrial invertebrates showed some signs of negative impact as a result of exposure to the use being made of each site. For example, the introduced bird the Ani, Crotophaga ani, was observed as frequently as native species of bird (shown in the photo), feeding on seeds and other waste in the rubbish dump. This has implications for the dispersion of seeds, especially of introduced plants, back into the area of origin of the native birds in the Primitive Zone of the National Park. Moreover, the altered habitats, whether by the creation of roads, paths or the removal of stone, were the sites of greatest abundance of introduced invasive plants, particularly the grass Pennisetum purpureum and the quinine tree Cinchona pubescens. Within the invertebrates, the displacement and decrease of populations of native and island endemic species was notable, principally due to the presence of two species of invasive ant, Wasmannia auropunctata and Solenopsis geminate.

Despite these results, the reality in the Galapagos archipelago is that the human population is growing, together with the number of researchers and resource managers; they must possess sufficient ability to take adequate management decisions which allow, in the long term, on the one hand rational use of the goods and services which can be exploited, and on the other guarantee the conservation of the ecological integrity and biodiversity of these fragile ecosystems.

Source: Galapagos National Park.

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This website was created on 25 October 2004 by PT and JK, and was last updated on 27 April 2006 by PT and JK.