Water security and agricultural systems in the Galapagos Islands: vulnerabilities under uncertain future climate and land use pathways

Agricultural catchments for three main populated Islands of the Galapagos: (A) Santa Cruz, (B) San Cristobal, and (C) Isabela.

The Galapagos Islands, a hotspot of ecological richness, face challenging climatic and development conditions which undermine regional water security. Yet, the way by which these conditions may change in the future is highly uncertain. In this study, we applied for the first time an uncertainty-based approach in the Galapagos Islands to understand thresholds and potential scenarios of risks to water security of agricultural catchments in the Galapagos Island. We applied a water systems model to the agricultural catchments as well as climate and land use scenarios to estimate physical changes in water availability and implications for drought and extreme flow thresholds. Our results highlight the key role of baseflow and its important sensitivity to precipitation changes in determining water security states in the Islands. In fact, a decrease in just about 25% of total water flows, from historical conditions, in the Islands would drive drought conditions resembling those of the emergency state of 2016. We also note that under a land use scenario which promotes sustainable practices, the robustness of the Islands to climate variations increases. Our study then provides the basis for an application of uncertainty-based approaches to enhance resilience of the agricultural water systems as well as other systems. Our results also emphasize the need to design flexible and comprehensive policies in the water, agricultural and interconnected sectors which consider the interlinkages of climate with other social and economic variables. 

Read the article in the link: www.frontiersin.org/journals/water/articles/10.3389/frwa.2023.1245207/full 

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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!