The time is now to tackle climate change

Historically, the Galapagos Islands have been used for studies in a variety offields. However, when we talk about climate change and its repercussions on ecosystems, population, and infrastructure of the islands, little is known.

Homero Paltán, Fátima Benítez and Carlos Mena, members of the Institute of Geography of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and researchers from the Galapagos Science Center, together with members of the Research Group on Biodiversity, Environment and Health of the Universidad de las Americas, proposed to analyze the existing climatological data. This would allow them to create a baseline of the current and future climatic conditions of the Galapagos Islands, in conjunction with a diagnosis of the change in sea surface temperature.

GSC meteorological station located in the highlands of San Cristobal

Through their research they were able to conclude that:

  • The rainy season on the islands is currently about 20 days behind compared to a couple of decades ago
  • In the last decades, the temperatures of the islands have already increased by 0.6oC
  • Since the year 2000, the sea surface temperature has increased by 1.2 oC
  • By mid-century, island temperatures could rise by as much as 2.2oC
  • Storms and downpours could intensify in the future on the islands

 “There are still several climatic uncertainties in the islands, which is why it is important to improve the implementation of decision frameworks based on uncertainty and expand the network of instruments that allow recording temperature, water levels, rainfall and other hydrological variables as this will allow better planning within key sectors such as agriculture, tourism and population growth” said Paltán.

This research confirms that knowing the different trends of climate change is of utmost importance as it will help us better understand the deterioration or conservation of marine resources, the stability of ecosystems, the availability of food and water, the occurrence of disasters such as floods, droughts or rising sea levels, and even the proliferation of invasive species.

The findings of our researchers expose the need to begin to promote resilience and generate policies that allow us to adapt to climate change and be prepared to face it.

The analyses were carried out based on climate projections from various international models and on existing hydrometeorological records, especially from Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands, as well as products from international climate repositories and satellite observations.

“Pristine” microcosm in Rosa Blanca, a place that deserves to be preserved. Photo: Francisco Laso.

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!