The Islands of Galapagos
Six hundred miles off the coast of South America, sits the wondrous islands of Galapagos, an untouched volcanic archipelago that serves as home to numerous species that may be found nowhere else in the world. From unpopular plants to known extinct organisms; the different islands serve the best the world can offer to biological study (World Wildlife Fund, 2001). Charles Darwin was the first to explore these islands and discovered the diversity it has in store. Through his exploration of the biodiversity of the island he was able to propose the theory of Natural Selection that involves evolution of creatures (White, 2001).
There are 19 islands that comprise the whole Galapagos archipelago. Most of them have well-preserved geographical qualities that are conducive to the development and evolution of the inhabitant species (UNESCO World Heritage, 2008). Thus, the biodiversity of the islands continue to flourish.
Some of the numerous species of the flora and fauna of these islands are not found in any other parts of the world although it does not offer animals coming from all phyla of the animal kingdom. There are large spiders which are mostly found in the shrubs and trees while scorpions may be found under rocks and crevices. These scorpions are feared by human inhabitants for it brings unbearable sting that is said to be fatal for children (Anderson et al, 1971).
Insects are also abundant in the islands although not all of them have evolved to different species. Butterflies only have a few species represented in the isles while hawkmoths have 12 species, and pollinator bees’ species are as few as the breed of the butterflies. There are no known amphibians inhabiting the islands while reptiles like sea tortoises named after the island have been found to meet extinction sometime soon (Anderson et al, 1971).
Marine iguanas which are also reptiles are endemic in Fernandina and Isabela Isles while Santa Cruz, San Salvador, Santa Maria, Español and San Cristobal islands offer another variety that comes with bright green and red markings. Unlike the marine iguanas, the land iguanas are slowly diminishing due to natural and man-made reasons. They are said to be dwindling in number due to the hunting of other animals and of humans who finds these animals as good food sources (Anderson et al, 1971).
Galapagos Islands’ birds have 108 species and subspecies known, 89 breed in the island and 77 of them are plentiful. The large ones are mostly found in the Northern boundaries and the smaller more slender birds inhabit the Southern limits. Most of these birds feed on the seeds of the plants in the islands and bountiful insects. The Galapagos finch is the most studied and recognized breed of bird in the islands (Anderson, 1971).
Most of these animals survive and develop new species in the island because of lush flora that serves for most of them as source of food. Vegetation by the sea boundary is mostly shrubs and trees that are mostly salt-tolerant like red, white, and button mangroves. The larger and more prominent plants are found in the main lands were slat may not limit their growth and development (Anderson, 1971).
As may be seen, the geography of the island greatly adds up to the interrelationships of the life forms in the island. The weather also contributes wherein every seven years; there is an alteration in the cold water upwelling due to El Niño currents. This amounts to the decreasing number of plankton that is part of the food chain of most marine animals that are also part of the food chain of land animals that feed on marine animals. This also affects the cormorants as they only breed when there are nutrient-rich currents coming in, until then these flightless birds would breed at all (Anderson, 1971). This proves that extinction of certain specie may cause the disappearance of another and may be more.
This is why disruptions on the environment both natural and man-made, threatens the system altogether especially that a number of the islands comprising the archipelago is inhabited by humans. The human population grows eight percent a year needing more space. It has been found that poverty problems in Ecuador forced some of its residents to transfer to the isles of Galapagos in search of more profit from the rich natural resources of the islands. The fishing and tourism business some of them are starting in the islands, pose as disturbances to the well-preserved biome (WWF, 2001). Some of the land iguanas are slowly diminishing because of human inhabitants in the islands hunting them for food (Anderson, 1971). There is also a problem with the agriculture brought by humans as domesticated animals feed on the faunas leaving some areas overgrazed and no longer fit for habitation for some species unique on the isles (WWF, 2001).
Prevention of these kinds of disruptions is being pushed by some agencies like the National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Charles Darwin Research Station is trying to preserve the natural beauty and official number of species in the islands by preventing entry of living forms that are unnatural to the islands. They also push for the halt of the migration of humans into the islands. Another one of their preservation projects is the breeding of the species of tortoise and iguanas found only on the island in order to lessen the continuous decline of their number. The National Park Service, on the other hand, has imposed strict rules regarding the entry of tourists. In this way every activity within the area will regulated and strictly observed (WWF, 2001).
These and some personal discipline may help the preservation of these grandiose isles in the Pacific. This discipline may be reflected by following the strict rules imposed by the National Park Service and through supporting the projects of Charles Darwin Research Station. Continuous efforts in lessening global warming may also help as weather and climate affects the life forms of the islands of Galapagos. In relation to this, there may be a proposal of continued activities and movement that will decrease the effects of global warming on the islands. This can help in preservation not only of the Galapagos Islands but also of other natural habitats in the world. There may also be a proposal of making the entire Galapagos archipelago as a sanctuary in which humans, except for researchers and park rangers, are prohibited. This may definitely eliminate the problem on human disruption of the ecosystem.
As may be seen, if the entry of humans into the isles will not be prevented it may not be long before the isles will become common islands in the pacific where the unique flora and fauna are extinct and humans are the main inhabitants continually working for modernization and civilization.
Anderson, E.F., Porter, D.M., Wiggins, I. L. (1971). Flora of the Galapagos Islands. California: Stanford University Press.
UNESCO World Heritage. (2008). Galápagos Islands. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1
White, W.M. (2001). Galapagos Geology on the Web. Department of Geological Science, Cornell University. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.geo.cornell.edu/geology/Galapagos.html
World Wildlife Fund. (2001). Galapagos Islands Xeric Scrub (NT 1307). Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/nt/nt1307_full.html