In the picturesque city of Darwin, Australia, the 10th World Conference on Ecological Restoration (SER2023) convened during the last week of September. This event, hosted by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), brought together a global community of experts, including our esteemed Director General, Washington Tapia, representing Galápagos Conservancy.
SER has been a beacon in ecological restoration for nearly three decades, connecting over 4,000 members worldwide and championing impactful practices and policies. This year’s conference was no exception, with around a thousand academics, scientists, and professionals gathering in person for the first time since 2019 to discuss the pressing imperatives of ecosystem restoration.
A highlight of the event was Tapia’s presentation, titled “Rewilding Giant Tortoises: Engineering Plant Communities in the Galápagos Islands,” which delved into the indispensable role of giant tortoises in rejuvenating island ecosystems. Emphasizing the significance of reintroducing megafauna, like Galápagos giant tortoises, Dr. Tapia illustrated how their presence not only revitalizes animal populations but also rejuvenates entire plant ecosystems.
As he shared insights on how the resurgence of giant tortoise populations has influenced plant communities on various scales, Tapia noted the resulting increase in herbaceous plants and decline in woody ones. He described this phenomenon as a “cascade effect,” where a singular shift, like the tortoises’ selective plant consumption, creates ripples throughout the ecosystem. In essence, the presence of these tortoises catalyzes benefits for the island’s diverse life forms, setting off a natural domino effect.
Tapia’s presentation not only elevated the profile of Galápagos and Ecuador on the international stage but also emphasized a holistic view of nature. He underscored the intrinsic value of each species as a contributor to ecosystem health and resilience. The reintegration of megafauna, especially giant tortoises, stands as a testament to the collaborative endeavors of Galápagos Conservancy and the Galápagos National Park Directorate, setting a global benchmark for comprehensive island restoration.
Events like SER2023 underscore the importance of a collective, interdisciplinary commitment to address the ecological challenges of the 21st century. With luminaries like Washington Tapia leading the charge, there’s hope for a greener, more sustainable future.