Heritages > Galapagos
＜青山学院大学 経済学部 経済学科 柏木広水＞
Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these nineteen islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique 'living museum and showcase of evolution'. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos are a 'melting pot' of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflect the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life - such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch - that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution following his visit in 1835.
The Galapagos archipelago is part of Ecuador, a country in northwestern South America.
There are 13 large islands, 6 smaller ones and 107 islets and rocks, with a total land area of about 8,000 square kilometres. The islands are volcanic in origin and several volcanoes in the west of the archipelago are still very active. Galapagos is a province of the Republic of Ecuador and five of the islands are inhabited, with a total population of around 18,000 people. The capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, although the largest
town is Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
＜Issues in Galapagos＞
Galapagos is a double World Heritage Site (WHS). The land area was among the first natural WHS to be declared in 1978, the marine area was included in 2001. It is the world's largest oceanic archipelago with its biodiversity virtually intact (95%+). Nonetheless, conservation presents many challenges which will only be achieved by a combination of top-quality research and information and by the rigorous implementation of the rules of the Special Law for Galapagos. (http://www.gct.org/issues.html)
Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos collecting and preserving specimens from four separate islands. This started the process of enquiry which led him finally to conclusions published in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian colonists had grown in numbers. A series of attempts were made to exploit such crops as orchilla (dyers' moss) and sugar, but none lasted long and several ended violently. Only fishing and subsistence farming on four of the larger islands; Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana was able to sustain people for long. This resulted in the population growing very slowly so that by 1955 it was only some 1500. The population is now, in 2005, approaching 30,000.
＜The future of Galapagos＞
Today the islands boast the highest standard of living of any province in Ecuador but, with a rapidly growing population, conflicts have inevitably arisen between the population needs and the fragile Galapagos ecosystem. The pressures on the archipelago's natural resources threaten their biodiversity and ecological integrity, as well as the sustainability of the natural resources upon which the livelihoods of the islanders depend. As the population grows, these pressures are likely to increase rather than decrease. More than ever there is a need for all involved to work together to influence decision makers, in order to preserve these unique and beautiful islands for all their inhabitants and for the world.