The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago located 1050 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador. The archipelago includes 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands and 107 islets that crop up on both the northern and southern sides of the equator.
The first islands are estimated to have formed over five million years ago. Others are still being formed and the most recent volcanic eruption occurred in 2005.
The islands emerged from the ocean depths as the result of constant eruptions, which pushed large masses of materials to the surface, creating a surprising number of large and small islands and islets, some with volcanoes. The largest volcano today is the Wolf volcano, which reaches a height of 1707 meters above the sea level.
Volcanic activity in the islands is relatively high, similar to that of the Hawaiian Islands, characterized by cones that extend upwards in the shape of shields, crowned by enormous craters. The Archipelago surface covers 693,700 hectares or 1,714,000 acres and rages in height from sea level to 1,707 meters (5,600 feet). Close to 97, 5% of the surface is protected parkland, while the remainder consists of the settlements.
NOTE: The biggest problem affecting the biodiversity of the Archipelago is the introduction of species of animals and plants that are a big threat to the native and endemic species of the islands.
The interior waters of the Galapagos Islands, plus those within 40 nautical miles measured from the baseline of the Archipelago, were declared the Galapagos Marine Reserve on 1994. This is the only protected coastal marine area in the east Pacific, and the second largest Marine Reserve in the World. It holds approximately 51.351 square miles of the interior waters of the Archipelago. There are many areas with small submarine volcanoes, which are important feeding zones for marine birds and mammals. The submarine area of Galapagos (0 to 590 ft. deep) is of 2.587 square miles.
Do not miss the chance to snorkel with sea lions, penguins, a variety of colorful fish and even inoffensive sharks. Diving tours are offered for those who are willing to take a deep adventure.
The Galapagos Islands were unknown until just a few centuries ago. Free of humans and predators for almost all of their history, the islands have developed some of the most unique life forms on the planet, highly adapted to their harsh surroundings and ecological isolation from the rest of the world. It was not until Charles Darwin’s famous visit in 1835, which helped inspire the theory of evolution by natural selection, that the Galapagos Islands began to receive international recognition.
Galapagos has also drawn thousands of new residents attracted by the promise of lucrative opportunities linked to the islands’ marine and terrestrial wildlife. But the ever-growing human population is threatening the future of this archipelago.
With the influx of people come unfortunate consequences: unknown numbers of invasive plant and animal species are driving out native species, marine resources are being harvested faster than they can be replaced, and habitats are being degraded at alarming rates.
The good news is that the Galapagos Islands are still home to most of the species that lived there before the arrival of humans, and the Ecuadorian Government and the international conservation community recognize the importance of protecting the biodiversity of these island treasures.
The challenge is that available resources and conservation measures currently in place are not sufficient to protect Galapagos from the inevitable threats of the future.
Conservation programs must be planned with long-term vision for the future, a common set of goals for the land and sea, and high standards demanding nothing less than full protection of the islands of Galapagos.
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