Galápagos is considered to be one of the most active volcanic areas on Earth. The number of tourists and ocean pollution are compromising the natural balance of this earthly paradise. The relative isolation due to the distance from the continent and the wide variety of climates and habitats due to the marine currents of the area have led to the evolution of numerous endemic species of animals and plants, from whose observation Charles Darwin drew inspiration for the formulation of the theory of evolution.
The famous of him The origin of species contains numerous references to his studies on the endemic species of the Galápagos. In this extraordinary system of islands it is possible to distinguish 560 species in different plant families, of which a third are endemic, such as: coffee, cotton, chilli, passion flower and tomato.
In addition to endemic species of genera spread elsewhere, there are also entire endemic genera, such as Scalesia, the daisy tree, and some cacti, such as Brachycereus, called lava cactus and Jasminocereus, the candelabra cactus, which will be illustrated in the following lines.
In the coastal strip, especially in the tidal area, located in the few estuaries, bays and inlets, you can see expanses of mangroves, where the endemic animal species of the lava heron lives. From the beaches and coves up to 100 meters above sea level, a strip called arid coastal area extends, which represents one of the largest areas of the archipelago, in which carob and cactaceae predominate, such as the Brachycereus, called lava cactus , endemic species, which is a cactus with a columnar appearance, with a height of up to 60 cm, has a youthful yellow color, as it ages it darkens and becomes gray.
Although the issue of environmental protection in the Galápagos was already the subject of legislative indications in 1934 and 1936, the first significant actions in this direction were undertaken only at the end of the 1950s.
In 1955, the International Union for Conservation of Nature organized an observation mission to the Galápagos to detect the presence of any harmful or dangerous activities for the archipelago's ecosystem. In 1957, UNESCO and the Ecuadorian government organized a second monitoring mission.
In 1959, coinciding with the centenary of the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5% of the emerged area of the Galápagos a national park, excluding only the colonized areas.
In the same year the Charles Darwin Foundation was created in Brussels, whose primary objective was precisely the conservation of the Galápagos. The foundation's first activity was the creation of the Charles Darwin Research Station in 1964.
Station staff undertook conservation programs that also included the elimination of human-introduced plant and animal species from the island. When the park was created, between 1000 and 2000 people lived on the island. By the 1980s this number had grown to exceed 15,000; the estimates in 2006 are in the order of 30,000 inhabitants.
The existence of a growing local population poses significant long-term problems regarding the policies to be adopted for the conservation of the park. Until the 1980s, the Galápagos Protected Area included only land mass.
In 1986 the surrounding waters were also declared a marine reserve. The entire archipelago was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 (islands) and in 2001 (marine reserve). In May 2021, due to natural erosion, the arched rock formation dedicated to Charles Darwin collapsed.
However, this has brought to the attention the conservation of the archipelago's heritage, for the protection of which the actor Leonardo Di Caprio has committed himself for a sum of 43 million dollars