CUSE Grant – Seed, $5,000.
The Galapagos ecosystem is a strong draw for international ecotourism. Human activity, however, often leads to profound changes in the relationships and structures of biophysical systems that are detrimental to both human and non-human species. The confluence of changing land use patterns and the introduction of a devastating avian parasite into the Galapagos Islands has set the stage for the decline of several species of Darwin’s finch, a centerpiece of Galapagos tourism. These declines will ultimately have a negative effect on ecotourism and the existing island social system. We believe one of the overlooked links in decreasing bird species decline is understanding how agricultural regions might be used to eliminate areas of refuge for the parasite. Changing land use likely concentrates and alters the breeding behavior of Darwin’s finch species to favor the invading parasite. A priority for the Landbird Conservation Plan of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park Directorate is determining the effectiveness of corridors of native forests to protect birds. We are exploring collaborative arrangements with Galapagos farmers to build and maintain buffer regions between agricultural areas and remnant native forest. We are working to identify the support farmers require to maintain buffer zones near their farms while maximizing crop yields. Our ultimate goal is to design a guide of farming methods and land preservation plans to help optimize biodiversity and maximize sustainable crop yield within the agricultural and socioeconomic systems currently in place.