Linking Livelihoods and Conservation: Challenges Facing the Galápagos Islands

Part of the Global Environmental Studies book series (GENVST)


The Galápagos Islands are hailed as “evolution’s workshop” (Larson 2002): they conjure up images of idyllic isolation, giant tortoises, finches and a visit by Charles Darwin. Less known is that humans have been present in the archipelago since the beginning of the nineteenth century. American whalers and Ecuadorian colonists were early arrivers there, and Darwin mentioned both when he visited the Galápagos in 1835. The immigrant population mostly lived from agriculture and fisheries until the 1970s. Since then, however, tourism has become the major economic means of survival; the tourism-driven economy has attracted many new migrants from ­mainland Ecuador and the resident population has grown at an amazing rate. In 1962, 3 years after the national park was established, Galápagos had 2,300 inhabitants; it had 4,000 inhabitants in 1974 when organized tours of the islands began. In 1990 there were 10,000 residents and 40,000 tourists visiting the islands annually. In 2008 the settled population is estimated at 30,000 and more than 170,000 tourists visit the islands each year. Virtually all food, fuel and consumable goods needed to support the resident, migrant and tourist populations must be imported from the mainland. Despite legislation designed to protect the environment, the sheer number of visitors pushes island resources to their limits. All of the above also increases air and sea transport between the continent and the archipelago, and so the arrival of more invasive species. Yet tourism-driven development continues, threatening both conservation goals and the underlying ecological integrity of the archipelago.


Cruise Ship Tourism Company Tourism Policy Giant Tortoise Tourist Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Galápagos Conservancy has provided salary support for the two authors. We thank Mandy Trueman for making Figs. 6.1 and 6.2. Daniel Niles and Mandy Trueman provided constructive comments and edited the document. The usual disclaimers apply.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Charles Darwin FoundationSanta CruzEcuador
  2. 2.Research Institute for Environment and LivelihoodsCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia
  3. 3.Institut de GéographieUniversité de NantesNantesFrance

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