Outline, with examples, the effects of human activities on the animal and plant population in the Galapagos Islands.

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Joseph Davy Outline, with examples, the effects of human activities on the animal and plant populations in the Galapagos Islands. At first glance it would appear that humans have had a negative impact on the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands. In 2006-7, 48% of the animal population of the islands were considered vulnerable to extinct by the IUCN after research conducted by the Charles Darwin Foundation, and the Galapagos National Park. In the same report it found that 60% of the plant lif
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  Joseph DavyOutline, with examples, the effects of human activities on the animal and plant populations in theGalapagos Islands.At first glance it would appear that humans have had a negative impact on the flora andfauna of the Galapagos Islands. In 2006-7, 48% of the animal population of the islands wereconsidered vulnerable to extinct by the IUCN after research conducted by the Charles DarwinFoundation, and the Galapagos National Park. In the same report it found that 60% of the plant lifeof the Galapagos was vulnerable to extinct.One of the main factors of this decline in numbers is due to foreign species entering theislands when the first travellers arrived. The kind of animals that were accidentally introduced werenot dangerous or deadly in themselves, but when placed in a fragile ecosystem where life tookthousands of years to evolve, have had dramatic consequences. Feral dog, introduced as pets of early settlers, conquistadors, and pirates, have been a threat to tortoise eggs, iguanas, and almostevery other species on the Islands. Four goats were introduced onto the Santiago Islands in the early1800s and one estimate calculated there population rose to 100 000 before their culling in the early21 st Century, it is believed that the introduction of the goat lead to the extinction in the wild of thePinta sub- species of tortoise. The goats devoured the Pinta’s food, leaving Lonesome George as the last hope. In recent years, humans have made a more conscious effort to repair, or at least slow thedamage done. Since the turn of the century there has been large scale eradication of non-nativespecies. On the Santiago Islands pigs and goats have been eradicated, and there is currently a large scale ‘weeding’ operation to eradicate foreign plant life. Since the disappearance of the goat and pig the flora of the Santiago Islands have started growing back, unfortunately this includes invasivespecies such as the blackberry, as well as Galapagos rail returning. Feral dogs on the Isabela Islandhave also been eradicated following the action taken by the Charles Darwin Foundation, GalapagosNational Park, and Ecuadorian government.Another way in which humans have had an impact on the Galapagos Islands is our own highdemands for water, energy, and food, which the Ecuadorian authorities are struggling to meet. Itwas this high demand for resources, which caused the oil spill in 2001. The spill was one of the worstdisasters to affect t he Galapagos Islands. On many of the archipelago’s islands seals, sea lions, birds, and turtles were caught in the oil. The oil can result in long-term damage to the animals, as they tryto clean themselves they ingest oil, which is toxic and carcinogenic. There are also concerns that oilcould prevent the growth of algae and disrupt the food chain. Immediately after the spill teams weresent to try and contain the oil, however this failed and oil reached the shores of Santa Fe, one of thecentral islands in the archipelago . Ecuador’s environment minister at the time said the accidentcaused ‘extremely severe’ damage. This is because the Galapagos is an environment, which is under high pressure anyway due to the negative impacts of human life, and has been stretched further dueto the oil catastrophe. The usual high strain of the Galapagos is caused by the need for food andhousing for the 25 000+ people that call the Galapagos Islands their home and the 100 000 touriststhat visit every year. On some islands forests of endemic plant life have been almost completelywiped out to make way for agricultural land. It also reduces the amount of fresh water available tonative species. Humans have also exploited the islands’ resources. In the 19 th Century South Americanwhalers set up residence on the islands, particularly Floreana. The species were killed faster than  Joseph Davythey could reproduce and during the period of the whalers saw the near extinction of the spermwhale and the reduction of the elephant tortoise. Another species hunted to near extinction is theGalapagos tortoise; in fact it took 300 years to give the species a scientific name because they wereso tasty they did not last the journey back to be named. The decline of the tortoise continues due toa mixture of the above reasons and illegal poaching. In recent years attempts have been made toreintroduce and replenish the Galapagos tortoise back onto the islands. However, the main goal of these efforts is to find a mate for Lonesome George and save the Pinta sub-species. Recently,overfishing or illegal fishing has become a large issue. When migrants do not find work in tourismthey resort to fishing. The sea cucumber and sharks of the Galapagos have become targets, both arepopular in Asia for their aphrodisiac or medicinal qualities. Due to the sharp decline in numbers inthe 1990s the GNP ordered a ban on fishing sea cucumbers, this was met with strikes and violencefrom the fishermen. To this day the fishermen ignore the quotas set and regularly challenge them sothey can exploit the ecosystem for their own profit.In conclusion, humans have over the years had a disastrous impact on the islands. We havecaused both directly and indirectly the extinction or near extinction of many endemic species whichhave long lasting effects. Now we are trying to rectify the situation but the few who are trying tosave the islands are swimming against the tide with the majority of people on the island moreinterested in earning money than saving the archipelago. More and more invasive species enter theisland wreak havoc on the ecosystem, an invasive wasp species has recently been spotted on theislands and with it has seen the fall of the numbers of caterpillar larvae which is the main food source for Darwin’s finches. Numbers of humans on the islands continue to rise with an estimated40 000 by 2014, this would only further increase the damage on the islands. Humans have settled onthe islands and are now there to stay and further destroy the islands despite the good work of a few.
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