The Galapagos Are Under Attack by a Silent Killer


Climate change. Yes, silently attacking all ecosystems globally. The rise of global temperature has lead to the deterioration of the once thriving habitats and even lead to the loss of certain plant and animal species. The growing threat of rising temperatures is predicted to influence the frequency and strength of El Niño events around the Galapagos Islands.

The global impacts of an El Niño year © NCEP

Scientists have predicted many scenarios related to climate change but now that there is more evidence of climate change, we can narrow more vague and open-ended issues. Collectively there are several predictions that the scientific community agrees on regarding the climate change impact on the Galapagos Islands. Higher temperatures in the sea’s surface, rising sea levels will occur, and an increase in rainfall is likely.

Hundreds of exotic plant and animal species inhabit the Galapagos. Climate change will greatly impact some of these species. The land and marine iguanas, the green turtles and giant tortoise are just a few that will see deadly results. Higher temperatures may force some turtle and tortoise species to migrate. The iguanas are cold-blooded and the change in the air and sea would have drastic interference with the ability to regulate body temperature. As humans, we often forget how sensitive life is for other animals around the planet because we are resistant to so many things. The plants and animals on the islands could become extinct if temperatures continue to rise.

El Niño is part of a cycle called ENSO. As only a single phase in this cycle, it still is dangerous to the environments that endure this three to a five-year phenomenon. When experiencing an El Niño event both the oceans and the weather can be influenced. Stronger El Niño events have displayed global weather disruptions (What is El Niño?). During the years of El Niño, certain currents and weather patterns reverse. 

How El Nino works. Photograph: Guardian

The eastern Pacific experiences the development of warmer waters that rise upwards of 8°C. Westerly winds pick up. Indonesia and parts of Australia experience drier conditions causing periods of drought. On the Galapagos for example, these periods of weather changes alter the growth of food. With conditions changing and lasting longer during these events, it should be an obvious concept that ecosystems would be at risk.