Ecological restoration in Plaza Sur

Ecological restoration in Plaza Sur

Evaluation of the biotic and abiotic factors that affect the restoration of Opuntia echios var. echios on Plaza Sur Island, with Plaza Norte Island as an ecological reference PC-38-22

This project is currently Active

The Galapagos Verde 2050 program carries out ecological restoration of key species, particularly the species Opuntia echios var. echios on Plaza Sur Island using an island with similar environmental conditions and close to the restoration site, Plaza Norte Island, as a reference ecosystem.

Our Research Team

Patricia Jaramillo Díaz

Principal Investigator

Patricia is an Ecuadorian researcher who came to Galapagos in 1996 to work on her PhD thesis about the “human impact on native, endemic and introduced flora on the Galapagos Islands” and since...

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Anna Calle


Anna has always been fascinated by the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest. Her desire to protect these unique ecosystems motivated her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in...

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Nicolas Velasco


Nicolás has a great curiosity for plant species, their reproduction, ecology and how these disperse. Coming from Chile, started his career as an Agronomist studying the reproduction of fruiting...

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Pavel Enríquez-Moncayo

Project Assistant

Pavel has always admired the people behind the great scientific discoveries both in his home, the Galapagos, as well as worldwide. Further, growing up in the "Enchanted Islands" allowed him to...

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Paúl Mayorga

Project Assistant

I was born and raised in these "Enchanted Islands", which meant from a young age I was naturally immersed in the conservation of the place where I live. Growing up with relatively little technology...

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Danyer Zambrano

Field Assistant

Danyer arrived to Floreana Island when he was only two years old. As he grew up on the island, he always enjoyed the idea of living in a green environment full of natural life, as well as learning...

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Project Details

How is the ecological restoration of the emblematic species Opuntia echios var. echios carried out in Plaza Sur?

Plaza Sur, despite being one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, has become an emblematic tourist destination due to its extraordinary flora and fauna. Among its main attractions are the land iguanas and the Opuntia cacti. Unfortunately, the population Opuntia echios var. echios has been affected due to a combination of several factors, including introduced rodents, pressure from herbivores such as native iguanas, and extreme weather events such as El Niño and La Niña. In addition, a little studied factor is the properties of the soil and its effect on the population of O. echios. This is why GV2050 initiated restoration efforts in 2013, obtaining valuable results on the effectiveness of using water-saving technologies for the restoration of O. echios. Currently, the project focuses on the ecological restoration of Plaza Sur Island, through the restoration of the population of Opuntia echios var. echios using Plaza Norte Island as a reference ecosystem.

gv2050 plazas figura1Plaza Norte Island Ecosystem.

Watch video history of Opuntia virtual reality its history in the islands:

What tools does the Galapagos Verde 2050 program use for the ecological restoration of O. echios in Plaza Sur?

One of the important limitations in the Galapagos Islands is the availability of fresh water, which is why it is necessary to optimize its use using water-saving technologies. The GV2050 program uses the following water-saving technologies that are widely used and proven worldwide for their effectiveness: Groasis Waterboxx®, Cocoon, Growboxx®, Hydrogel and Biochar.

Groasis Waterboxx® technology.

It is a technology that collects rainwater, storing it to provide it through a constant supply of water to the plant, allowing it to develop better.
Information on the use of this technology

Cocoon biodegradable boxes. With functions similar to Groasis Waterboxx®, but made of biodegradable material that does not need to be removed at the end of its use.

The video shows how Cocoon technology is used in other ecological restoration projects 

Growboxx technology.

Also developed by Groasis, made of biodegradable material, it has a hole in the center where the plant to be restored is planted and four holes in the lid where seeds can be germinated hydroponically.
More information on how this technology is used

Information about the use


They are gels of polymeric materials that allow the retention of water in the soil to benefit the vegetation present on the site.
The benefits of hydrogel as a water saving technology

gv2050 plazas figura2
Water saving technologies used in the GV2050 program. a) Groasis Waterboxx®, b) Cocoon, c) Groasis Growboxx®, d) Hydrogel powder

¿In what phases is the project timeline divided?

gv2050 plazas

General map of the study sites where the restoration projects of Opuntia echios var. echios on South Plaza Island, divided by the different phases of ecological restoration within the GV2050 program.

Phase 1: It began in May 2015 and was successfully completed in December 2017. The project was carried out in three locations, West Cerro Colorado, Center and Los Lobos, planting a total of 655 specimens during that period.

Phase 2: It began in January 2018 and will run until December 2027. So far, 833 new individuals have been planted at the study sites.

Phase 3: The last and most extensive phase of the program will continue with the restoration of Opuntia echios var. echios in Plaza Sur, until reaching populations similar to Plaza Norte.


The main objective of this project is to contribute to the restoration of the ecological integrity of Plaza Sur Island, through the restoration of the population of Opuntia echios var. echios key species and engineer of the ecosystem to reach a healthy population having as reference the North Plaza Island.

The specific objectives of our project are:

  • Experiment with different water-saving technologies in the sowing of O. echios var. echios, to identify the most efficient methods for Plaza Sur.
  • Evaluate Plaza Norte as a reference ecosystem, to guide the minimum ecological conditions that must be achieved in the plant communities of Plaza Sur, as a result of the ecological restoration process.
  • Evaluate the herbivory, seed dispersal and diet of land iguanas on the cactus population using Plaza Norte as a reference ecosystem in the ecological restoration process.
  • Characterize the edaphic environment of Plaza Sur to understand its potential effect on the regeneration and survival of Opuntia on this island.

Our results

What results have we obtained from the ecological restoration of O. echios on Plaza Sur Island?

In just three years, the population of Opuntia echios var. echios have tripled. After this species engineered the ecosystem and the main food source for land iguanas, in the last century its population had decreased by at least 60%.
Approximately 1,000 specimens of Opuntia echios var. echios in the three study sites: West Cerro Colorado, Center and Los Lobos. In 2015, before carrying out the restoration project, 55 specimens were found, in the last monitoring in October 2021, 535 specimens were found, which indicates that its population has increased almost 10 times thanks to the ecological restoration carried out by the Galapagos green program 2050 using water-saving technologies.

gv2050 plazas2Ecological restoration of Plaza Sur Island through its repopulation with Opuntia echios var. echios. GV2050 equipment.

We have also analyzed data collected in the field and, as a result, two manuscripts published in internationally recognized scientific journals have been generated.
Overall, our findings suggest that water-saving technologies are not always universally applicable, but may increase seedling survival and growth rate under certain conditions, providing in some circumstances a useful tool to improve breeding results of the restoration of rare plants of arid ecosystems.
Efficacy of water-saving technologies during the early stages of restoration of endemic Opuntia cacti in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

gv2050 plazas 1968 2016
Changes in the population of O. echios var. echios, from 1967 to 2016, when the Galapagos Verde 2050 project began the first phase of ecological restoration of the island through repopulation with Opuntia.

Read more about our project on Plaza Sur Island (Blogs):
Ecological Restoration in Action: Plaza Sur, a Thorny Surprise

Galapagos Verde 2050 Continues Contributing to Ecological Restoration of South Plaza

Galapagos Verde 2050 Continues Contributing to Ecological Restoration of South Plaza

Do you want to know about the results obtained by the Galapagos Verde 2050 program in 2021?

Watch the following video:

Would you like to know what awards the Galapagos Verde 2050 initiative has won?

A) Green Latin America Awards

The GV2050 initiative was a finalist in the fifth edition (2018) of the Latin America Green Award and obtained THIRD PLACE in the “Water” category among 2,733 projects. Additionally, Galapagos Verde 2050 was awarded the Directv PROTAGONISTAS award "for having been one of the most outstanding stories, for the clarity of its purpose, its impact, its legacy and its ability to inspire positive change for the region and for the planet”.

More information about Galapagos Verde - Summary Prizes:

Read more about the success and Green Latin America Awards for the GV2050 (Blog):
Galapagos Project Finalist of the Green Latinamerican Awards 2018

B) P DirecTV protagonist Awards and inspiring stories:
Watch video (we can cut the section GV2050)
Watch inspiring women video
Inspirational stories in Galapagos, Mexico, Chile

Keywords: Plaza Sur, Opuntia echios, water saving, ecological restoration, water scarcity, threatened species, Groasis Waterboxx®, Hydrogel.

Bibliographical References

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