Understanding the Human Footprint in Galapagos

Understanding the Human Footprint in Galapagos


Understanding the human footprint in Galapagos: Geographic mapping, multi-cultural collaboration, and economic sustainability


Charles Darwin Foundation


Completed in 2013

A Galapagos farmer prepares to transport tomatoes, grown locally in Santa Cruz greenhouses.


This first component of this project provides continuity with the Charles Darwin Foundation’s “Galapagos Geographic Index” initiative, supported by Galapagos Conservancy since its beginning, which aims to measure anthropogenic impacts or “The Human Footprint” in Galapagos with reference to environmental, cultural, and spatial impacts.

A great deal of data relevant to this work has been obtained through observation and interviews with different social actors. The focus for 2012 is to complete the analysis of data on tourism, transport, water, construction, and other business sectors. The study will define indicators for weighting and measuring these impacts and use these to create visualizations and other tools for Galapagos decision-makers. The work will include geographical mapping through the voluntary use of innovative techniques such as smartphones for geographic and spatial analysis.

An important part of this work is discovering the differing impacts of distinct cultural groups. Research began with a collaborative study of the Salasaca population, which originates from the Tungurahua region of mainland Ecuador and, at an estimated 20%, represents the largest single culturally cohesive group among the resident population. Subsequently, the study will include work with the Afro-Ecuadorian population. Through this research, the CDF hopes to understand the relationships between distinct groups and their natural environment, and how this mediates both positive and negative impacts.

The final part of the project is an economics study that will examine the local food production sector. The objective is to study and develop market connections between local suppliers, consumers and the tourism sector. Goals are:

  • to consolidate the value chain
  • to help producers to improve processes and product quality standards to make local production competitive
  • to encourage the development of new business ideas that may include Fair Trade orientation, sustainable procedures, and social responsibility for commercialization of the local fishing, agriculture, and farming sectors

The study will include information on micro-financing options for this sector. The goal is to reduce Galapagos’ dependency on external sources of food, which carry a high risk of bringing introduced and invasive species to Galapagos, impacting local wildlife and the resident population.

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