A recent article on cnhtours helps us understand the past few years of El Nino’s effects in the Galapagos.
The 1997-98 El Nino was one of the worst on record, the temperatures near the Galapagos were around 4 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. There were large impacts on the wildlife, with animals struggling to survive.
In 2010 the Galapagos experienced a very mild El Nino, with no warming along the coast, only further out in the ocean. While there was worldwide effects in 2010, the Galapagos was not affected.
This year, the 2015 the ocean temperatures in the Pacific are the same as in 1997, but the coastal warming is less intense than it was 18 years ago. This is good news for the Galapagos wildlife because the local effects on the Islands and coastal Ecuador are expected to be less severe than in 1997-98.
Our guides in the Galapagos have been reporting back to us on the effects of El Nino on the wildlife as they see it unfold. Maria Gabriela Espinosa, one of our naturalist guides, recently informed us that they can tell the water is warmer than usual and marine iguanas appear thinner on some islands. Scientists suggest this is from eating a type of algae they cannot digest. The guides report they still see blue footed boobies dancing in North Seymour, so they appear to be doing fine so far.
In some areas Maria mentioned finding more jelly fish than normal because of the water temperatures being 2 – 3 degrees celsius higher. She reports back that the majority of the islands are status quo, except on Santiago where the marine iguanas do look weaker.
During El Nino it rains a lot in the islands. The rain tends to be very good for land birds such as finches, doves and mocking birds, but other species like marine birds suffer. Some vulnerable species such as the penguins and flightless cormorants are a concern during an El Nino event because of the poor food availability and the need for survival to maintain the species. These two specific wildlife are endemic to the islands, so if they disappear from the Galapagos, they disappear from the earth.
Researches and Technicians of the Galapagos National Park have made a recent trip to the Galapagos in order to study the effects of El Nino in specific wildlife such as iguanas, sea lions, seabirds and sea turtles. On this trip they monitored changes in sea temperatures as well as ecological aspects of the wildlife such as reproduction, feeding and migration.
The results will be used to create conservation strategies for these animals, in addition to better understand the impact of the changing temperatures in the Galapagos Islands.
Maria suggests if you are visiting the Galapagos with us soon bring insect repellent and lots of sunblock, the heat and the sun are extremely strong right now.