Project: Galapagos Climate Change Initiative Partners: Charles Darwin Foundation Status: Seeking funding
A Marine Iguana basks in the last warm rays of sunset. (Photo by Ernesto Paulo)
The unique climate of Galapagos is intrinsically linked to its exceptional biodiversity. As global climate warms by a projected two to six degrees centigrade in the next century, historical data suggests that the Galapagos Islands will experience stronger and/or more frequent El Niño events impacting marine and terrestrial biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and the human communities they support. Scientists in Galapagos are beginning to describe local climate change effects under global warming scenarios. The threat of global climate change combined with pressure from human activities could severely impact ecosystem function and the natural recuperation of living communities in both terrestrial and marine systems.
The Galapagos Climate Change project aims to gain thorough understanding of the impacts of climate change on Galapagos terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and to provide new tools for economic and ecological sustainability planning, as well as to contribute to a global understanding of the phenomenon.
This work represents an important step in understanding the ties between climate, biodiversity, and the human element. A living laboratory for natural and social sciences affords Galapagos a unique window into how best to prepare for an uncertain future under a shifting climate. What drives biodiversity, what is our footprint upon the ecosystem and what does that mean for the people that depend upon those resources? Exploration of existing and historical data sets will increase understanding of these relationships. Scientists will analyze the adaptability of Galapagos to climate change and predict the ecosystem response to changes in the frequency and strength of El Niño events, rainfall patterns, rise in sea temperature, sea level change, and acidification of the world’s oceans.
In contrast to mitigation (a global problem), adaptation deals with how to confront the inevitable changes associated with a gradual global climate shift. Galapagos is unique in that those changes are overlaid upon already strong El Niño and La Niña perturbations (ENSO). By understanding the localized consequences of global warming (ocean acidification, increased sea level and temperatures, shifts in habitat, altered ecosystem function, changes in nesting behaviors and physiology, invasive species and health issues, altered rainfall and land use patterns etc.), scientists working in Galapagos can extend lessons learned to other areas. The overall goal of this project is to strengthen natural ecosystem resilience through development of “Climate Smart” management designs with local decision makers and stakeholders that reduce additional human stressors during strong, possibly exaggerated ENSO events.
A group of generous donors have offered to match every gift we receive by December 31st — up to $35,000! Every dollar you give today will go twice as far towards preserving the magnificent biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.