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CONTROL AND ERADICATION OF
INTRODUCED PLANTS




  Page updated:29.06.2009


The danger of invasive species
Part II: Plants


For more information contact:
Carlos Carvajal, +593 (0)5 252 6189 Ext. 229, ccarvajal@spng.org.ec



In 1535 the Galapagos Islands were discovered. From that moment and with the onset of human activities, began its process of degradation, due in particular to the effect that introduced species had in an environment where indigenous species evolved without the presence of large predators.

The Galapagos Archipelago consists of typical oceanic islands, and therefore has a very small amount of native flora: some 500 species of plants, of which 180 are endemic. These species came and evolved over a period of 3 billion years (the estimated existence of the present Galapagos islands), at a "species generation" rate of about one per 10,000 years.

"
Some 750 vascular plants have been introduced by people to the Galapagos, about 90% of them deliberately since the discovery of the islands."

On the other hand, the contrast of plants introduced by humans is striking: some 750 vascular plants have been introduced by people to the Galapagos, about 90% of them deliberately since the discovery of the islands (1535).

This entry of vegetable species translates into a rate of arrival and successful establishment of introduced species of 1.6 per year! 90% of these plants species are considered useful to humans. They include some fruits, vegetables and other crops, timber, medicinal and ornamental plants.




Source: Galapagos Report 2006-2007 (PDF, 5.4 MB)

The relatively few accidentally introduced species are weeds, mainly of pan-tropical distribution or European, typical of disturbed areas that have spread in the Galapagos because of the openness and low competition in their environments.


Among the plants introduced by chance, few have caused serious problems to native biota, on the contrary, many introduced plants and crops have escaped and now acutely threaten dispersal of native species and their habitats.

The worst introduced species are those that manage to transform the habitats where they are present, among them, can be included some trees (like casacarilla) capable of invading areas of Galapagos that naturally had no trees, some shrubs and climbers and some herbaceous species, especially grasses.

Until now, the problem was worse in parts of high humidity in the inhabited islands, however the largest group of introduced plants has been ornamentals which are growing in gardens, many of which are adapting to semi-arid habitats, typical of arid lowlands of the islands of Galapagos, this type of plant could become serious invaders of relatively pristine arid zones in the future.

Endemic plants and populated islands

The inhabited islands are in a dramatic process of ecological change that produces a continuous decrease in the populations of many species endemic to Galapagos.

In San Cristóbal, most of the Critically Endangered species live in the dry zone, and are threatened mainly by introduced herbivores such as goats.


The fundamental threat to the Critically Endangered species in Santa Cruz are invasions of introduced plants in the upper zone, although habitat destruction has contributed to the decline of some (Acalypha wigginsii, Sicyocaulis pentagonus, and the orchid Cyclopogon werffii) while Scalesia retroflexa is particularly threatened by feral goats and donkeys.

On Floreana, perhaps the most troubled island of the Galapagos, and in southern Isabela, these factors are important.




Source: Galapagos Report 2006-2007 (PDF, 5.4 MB)




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