The Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Ministry of Environment, based on the actions established in the existing contingency plan, conducted an assessment of the environmental impacts of the heavy rain that fell across the archipelago last Monday.
Rangers surveyed areas of high ecological value on the island of Santa Cruz, to determine the degree of damage. They found that nesting zones of Galapagos storm petrels situated in the highest parts of the island have not been affected. The nests are inactive for now, with the last of the chicks having left the nests in mid-December.
In areas of “Los Gemelos” and “Salasaca”, where primary and secondary Scalesia pedunculata forest can be found, there are a number of trees that have fallen or been broken by the force of the rain, but this is not thought to pose a risk to the species population dynamics.
The nesting areas of giant tortoises, which have been monitored during the winter season, appear to have been affected by the increased rainfall. During the evaluation, it was confirmed that nests located in “El Chato” and “La Torta” are flooded, while nests in “Cerro Gallina” and “Cerro Fatal”, the habitat of the newly described Chelonoidis donfaustoi species of giant tortoise, have been affected to a lesser extent. In the coming days, park rangers will visit each site to determine how many nests and eggs have been destroyed by rainwater.
The park rangers also conducted coastal monitoring to check the status of species such as marine iguanas, sea lions and seabirds. No new information was reported. However, to determine possible long-term impacts, careful monitoring will continue, including monitoring of invertebrates and the seabed.
Visiting sites on Santa Cruz Island have not been affected in terms of infrastructure. The road to “El Chato” was blocked by rubble and repair works are being conducted and the road is expected to be cleared.
On Isabela island, access to the “Volcan Chico” and “Minas de Azufre” visiting sites were seriously affected, and the environmental authority is currently considering possibility of closure. In San Cristobal, “La Lobería” and “Puerto Chino” have natural watercourses which helped to prevent the rains from blocking access.
As an active member of the Emergency Operations Committee, the Ministry of Environment, through the Galapagos National Park, has notified park rangers to be on high alert to be ready for any eventuality. As of Tuesday morning, a team of park rangers have been working to clean watercourses and restore access to roads to rural areas of Santa Cruz, while another team of park rangers continue the ecological monitoring of species and ecosystems.
With natural events, such as El Niño, the environmental authority does not intervene in ecological processes. Actions are taken to assess the impact and consequences to ecosystems and species by monitoring before, during and after the event.
Translated with permission from the Galapagos National Park Directorate.