Golden rays in mangrove

---Press Release--- Researchers from the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, San Diego, together with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), revealed the results of the first archipelago-wide study about fish diversity and abundance in mangrove ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. It is well known that mangroves provide ideal habitat to fish throughout their life cycle, including during their juvenile stage. Mangroves in the Galapagos are no exception and are home to a great variety of fish species, some of which have local socio-economic importance.

To describe the diversity and abundance of fish communities that live among mangrove roots, researchers sampled 28 mangrove bays across islands of the Archipelago using a combination of two sampling methods, baited remote underwater stereo-video stations (s-BRUVS) and underwater visual censuses. Scientists registered over 35,000 fish belonging to 92 species. At least 30 of the species identified, such as snappers and the sailfin grouper, are of importance to local artisanal fisheries. Several species of sharks and rays were also found in mangrove areas, which are charismatic species that have great importance to the local tourism industry.

But mangroves do more than just provide important habitat to fish, they also provide a variety of ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration and coastal protection. In another study led by CDF scientists published in 2019 , it was estimated that mangroves provide $62 million in ecosystems services per year to the tourism industry in the Galapagos and contribute over $900,000 every year to the local artisanal fisheries.


Scientists used baited remote underwater stereo video camaras (s-BRUVS) in mangroves of the Galapagos to assess abundance and diversity of fish community.
Scientists used baited remote underwater stereo video camaras (s-BRUVS) in mangroves of the Galapagos to assess abundance and diversity of fish community. Photo by: CDF

Denisse Fierro Arcos, marine scientist at the Charles Darwin Foundation and lead author said: “Thanks to this study we can conclude that mangroves not only play an important ecological role in local marine ecosystems, but they are also of great socio-economic importance to the human communities living in the Galapagos Islands, so we must ensure their long-term protection so the resources they provide can continue to be used in a sustainable manner.”

Mangroves are considered an oasis for life along the volcanic coasts of the Galapagos Islands.
Mangroves are considered an oasis for life along the volcanic coasts of the Galapagos Islands. Photo by: Octavio Aburto/CDF

The Galapagos are the only volcanic islands in the Eastern Pacific where mangroves occur naturally. Scientists at the CDF used satellite imagery to map the distribution of these trees across the archipelago, and they estimated that mangroves are present in about a third of all coastal areas. Even though mangroves are relatively widespread, there was limited information about the fish species that depend on them, and their role as nursery areas for fish species of socio-economic interest. Previous work on mangroves in the Galapagos has focused largely on the inhabited islands of the Archipelago, or on a subset of species . This study builds on this previous work to further our understanding of the importance of these habitats, and help inform the development of strategies and policy that can more effectively protect these areas.

“During their juvenile stage, fishes of several species, including young sharks, are vulnerable to become lunch for a larger predator. The complex mangrove root systems not only provide an excellent hiding place for these baby fishes, but also plenty of food during this critical stage of their life cycle” states Dr. Pelayo Salinas de León, senior scientist at FCD and coordinator of this study.

Juvenile fish among mangrove roots.
Juvenile fish among mangrove roots. Photo by: Octavio Aburto/CDF

Despite their ecological and socio-economic importance, only 5% of mangroves are fully protected against extractive activities under the 2001 zoning plan of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. “The level of protection given to mangroves must be re-evaluated when new zoning plans are drafted to ensure these habitats receive an appropriate level of protection that will allow them to continue supporting the local tourism industry and artisanal fisheries”, adds Fierro Arcos.

Results of this study were published in volume 664 of Marine Ecology Progress Series, which can be accessed through this link: This research was made possible through the generous support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Save Our Seas Foundation. For information in Spanish, please contact the lead author of the study


Isabela's team (Carla and Ernesto) adapting their initiatives to a new reality.

At the end of 2019, the CDF team on Isabela had a clear plan about the main education, sustainability and community outreach activities to be executed in 2020.However, March arrived and all of our plans, had to be postponed until further notice. It was not until June that the possibility of these activities were re-visited without a clear picture. We had to be flexible and adapt to this new reality, which until now had not stopped changing.

Here is a summary of the main activities that we carried out and the changes that had to be made according to the pandemic restrictions.

Program “Monthly Talks”
"Monthly Talks" facilitates visits of scientists working at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz to present their projects and results to local institutions and members of the Isabela community. Before the pandemic in 2020, we had executed three talks on fisheries, seabirds, and the impact of vehicles on small terrestrial birds projects.

Due to the health crisis, we had to resume the talks through virtual means. As of October, we held three talks related to sea turtles and invasive terrestrial species. Now in 2021 we will continue with this format to provide up-to-date information about our projects in the Galapagos.

“It is of the utmost importance to continue with the scientific talks of the CDF. Although the format was changed by having the talks virtually, this still allows us to continue to know its advances and results to take action and transmit the information." Mr. Mabel González, Specialist in Environmental Education and Social Participation of the Isabela Technical Unit of the DPNG.

Talks via Zoom provided by our scientist Heinke Jager about invasive terrestrial species.
Talks via Zoom provided by our scientist Heinke Jäger about invasive terrestrial species.

Sustainable Community Project III (SCIII)
Since 2018 "Sustainable Community" has been implemented on Isabela as an environmental education initiative as part of the Student Participation Program of the Stella Maris School. The project consists of the execution of five practical modules related to the environment: Sustainable agriculture, Science, Urban cleaning, Theatre and Sports, the latter includes yoga, surfing and paddle boarding. Due to the pandemic, in 2020 we had to adapt the project to a virtual format.

Due to the limitations of internet connection on Isabela, it was decided to use "WhatsApp" to be able to have a fluid communication between the 44 participants. A total of 38 classes related to environmental issues, sustainable development, science and conservation were implemented were executed during 7 months.

"I learned to make decisions considering economic, social and environmental variables to prevent negative consequences to our environment " Allison Pauta, participant SCIII.

Participants of the
Participants of the "SCIII" Project.

Advances in the Recipe Book “Nuestras Raíces" (“Our Roots”)
The recipe book "Nuestras Raíces" came to fruition with the idea of recognizing the culture of the island and promoting sustainable agriculture in Isabela. For this, in 2019, participants of the "Sustainable Community II" project had to write typical dishes of their families. Each dish had to be accompanied with a small text of the history, explaining how it relates to their families and the Galapagos.

During 2020 we had to interview the selected candidates by phone and in July we were able to make visits to photograph their dishes and their preparation. Currently the recipe book is in its final stage of review and design, we hope to be able to officially launch it during the first half of 2021.
"Through food customs we are mindful of our origin, it is important to teach our children to keep history alive over time." Eng. Gabriela Rivadeneira. Author of one of the recipes.

Prawn cocktail
Prawn cocktail "Carapachudo". Recipe by Keimy Moncayo. Photo by: Jessica Martinez

Harvesting water project
"Harvesting Water" aims to increase the amount of water collected to help sustain livestock and agriculture on Isabela. This helps increase healthy food production and reduce food dependence with Santa Cruz and mainland Ecuador.

The project involves installing three 40m2 fog-catchers in the highlands of the island. The state of emergency delayed the sampling of mist water collection and subsequent site selection. In addition, due to the economic consequences of the pandemic, they beneficiaries requested more time to gather their counterparts.

At the end of the year, two fog-catchers were installed. The first one was installed in the control shed of the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park at the entrance of the Sierra Negra volcano. The second system was installed in Mr. Juan Tupiza's livestock farm in the “Los Mellizos” sector.
The results have been very satisfactory, surpassing an average of 200 litres per day. We expect the third fog-catcher to be installed during the first quarter of 2021.

" Fog-catchers are a very important tool to promote production in Isabela. These systems open the doors for us to continue working on obtaining and managing the water that is a major part of the agricultural production of our canton." Eng. Romni Rodríguez, Agricultural Technician, Ministry of Agriculture in Isabela.

Fog-catcher´s being installed in the control shed of the DPNG at the entrance to the Sierra Negra Volcano.
Fog-catcher´s being installed in the control shed of the DPNG at the entrance to the Sierra Negra Volcano. Photo by: Carla Zambrano Palacios, CDF.

By 2021, in addition to completing our pendent activities of 2020, we will support the fisheries team in sustainability and gender studies in Isabela. In addition, we hope that face-to-face educational activities can be resumed to implement "Sustainable Community IV" among other educational initiatives.

Otherwise, we will continue our activities virtually. We begin this new year with a lot of positive energy, eager for our presence in Isabela to strengthen and contribute to the sustainable development and conservation of the magnificent enchanted islands.

A coalition of groups, including a newly formed organization backed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, have mobilized $43 million for efforts to restore degraded habitats in the Galápagos Islands, an archipelago renowned for its endemic species and central role in scientists’ understanding of ecology and evolution.

The Galápagos initiative has three immediate priorities: helping restore Floreana Island, one of the islands most degraded by human activities in the Galápagos; increasing the population size of the critically endangered pink iguana on Isabela Island; and strengthening protection of the archipelago’s marine reserves, which are critical to the local economy yet have been besieged by foreign fishing fleets in recent years. The initiative involves more than 40 partners, ranging from local NGOs to governments to international organizations, leveraging decades of collective experience working across the archipelago.

The group leading this effort is Re:wild, an organization that was just formed between Global Wildlife Conservation and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a founding board member of the new entity. The Galápagos initiative is Re:wild’s first project under its new brand, but the group plans to scale up its existing global work, putting renewed emphasis on the concept of rewilding, or restoring species and ecosystems to previous levels of abundance and health.

To mark the start of the new initiative, DiCaprio is turning control of his social media accounts over Paula A. Castaño, a veterinarian and biologist with Island Conservation who lives in the Galápagos Islands, for the day.

“When I travelled to the Galápagos Islands, I met with Paula Castaño and other environmental heroes in Ecuador working day in and day out to save one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet. I’m excited to share her team’s work and to support the longstanding effort to protect and restore these iconic islands, alongside the team at Re:wild,” said Leonardo DiCaprio. “Around the world, the wild is declining. We have degraded three quarters of the wild places and pushed more than one million species to the brink of extinction. More than half of Earth’s remaining wild areas could disappear in the next few decades if we don’t decisively act. Fortunately, conservation leaders like Paula are showing us that it is not too late to reverse this alarming trend.

Rakan Zahawi, CEO of the Charles Darwin Foundation, said:

"This initiative is a real game changer for Galapagos. Along with our conservation partners, we have been working on rewilding initiatives for decades - but to now have a major fund dedicated to such efforts expands both the scope and reach of what we can do to preserve this iconic place".

Galapagos Research, formerly Noticias de Galápagos, is the research journal of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands (CDF). The journal is edited and supervised by Dr. Alan Tye, a member of the CDF General Assembly. Here we publish research articles, archived news items of interest, and more general or outreach articles.

The journal covers topics of relevance to science or conservation in Galapagos, including natural history, biology, ecology, evolution, systematics, conservation biology, geology, geography, human history and activity, and biodiversity management.

Alan recalls that "Noticias de Galápagos began in 1963, soon after the CDF was founded, as a newsletter about the institution's activities, challenges and successes. As this role became largely fulfilled through digital media, Galapagos Research gradually evolved into the fully-fledged, 100% peer-reviewed research journal it is today, as exemplified by this new, full-color issue, with articles ranging from Galapagos history to birds, invertebrates and invasive plants. We hope you find it interesting”

In issue 70 we include the following contents:

  • A Galapagos Centipede Scolopendra galapagoensis preys on a Floreana Racer Pseudalsophis biserialis. Written by: Luis Ortiz Catedral, Eli Christian, Walter Chimborazo, Christian Sevilla and Danny Rueda.
  • First breeding record of the Galapagos Flycatcher Myiarchus magnirostris on Daphne Major islet. Written by: Manuel Nogales and Carlos Vera.
  • The role of light in Hill Blackberry Rubus niveus invasion of a Galapagos Scalesia forest. Written by: J.L. Renteria, R. Atkinson, C. Crespo and M.R. Gardener.
  • First record of Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax breeding in Galapagos. Written by: K. Thalia Grant.
  • The park monuments of Galapagos: a history and tribute. Written by: K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes.
  • First evidence of Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis breeding in Galapagos. Written by: K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes.
  • First record of the nematode Stephanurus dentatus in feral artiodactyls on the Galapagos Islands. Written by: Gustavo Jiménez-Uzcátegui, Luis Vasco, Andrea Loyola Herrera, Johannes Ramírez Kastdalen and Lenin Vinueza.
  • First report of co-occurrence of two species of mockingbird in the Galapagos Islands: a San Cristóbal Mockingbird Mimus melanotis in a population of Floreana Mockingbird M. trifasciatus. Written by Luis Ortiz-Catedral, Alex Lichtblau, Michael Anderson, Christian Sevilla and Danny Rueda.

We invite you to read our latest issue of the scientific journal Galapagos Research: here.

If you would like to submit your manuscript, please contact the editor at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The ‘Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands’, in French ‘Fondacion Charles Darwin  pour les Iles Galapagos’, Association Internationale sans but lucrative (AISBL), has its registered office at Avenue Louise 54, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Trade Registry # 0409.359.103

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