More Erosion and Damage to Coastal Facilities
Increased storms result in larger waves and coastal flooding and cause destruction to low-lying coastal habitats and infrastructure. Sea level rise also leads to coastal erosion and flooding. The combination of higher storm surges and sea level rise will affect low lying communities and facilities such as ports and boat docks. And coastal flooding and erosion will also have significant impact on species reliant on coastal habitats such as birds nesting on low lying islands, sea turtle nesting sites and mangrove forests.
Fewer Fish and Marine Mammals
Changing ocean conditions will alter the basic web of life in the Galápagos. Increased El Niño conditions impact entire groups of animals and plants in the food web. During the 1997-98 El Niño, sea lions and marine iguanas suffered from widespread mortality.
In recent years, severe El Niño events have resulted in losses of more than 95 percent of the region’s coral reefs; populations of Galápagos penguins decreased by almost 80 percent; and the Galápagos Damsel fish has not been sighted since.
Decreasing Coral Reef Populations
Corals provide critical habitat to the region’s many important species and are impacted by the increasing ocean water temperatures brought on by climate change. Prolonged exposure to warmer water has drastic impacts on corals, often causing them to lose the algae that provide their color.
ARTICLE: One Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Extinction
As a consequence, the corals bleach white. Bleaching that lasts longer than one week can kill the coral and decimate the habitats they provide for coral reef ecosystems. In recent years, warm ocean water caused by severe El Niño events has resulted in losses of more than 95 percent of the region’s coral reefs.
Changes in Rainfall Patterns
Changes in rainfall patterns – such as an increase in the severity of rainstorms or a shortened rainy season – have consequences for all plants and animals of the region.
The growing season for many plants depends upon a stable rainy season and excessive rainfall can inundate nesting sites for birds and sea turtles. Similarly a prolonged dry season affects the availability of food and adequate water for animals.
Tourism development in the Galápagos will be impacted by the availability of freshwater resources and is subject to large scale damage from strong storms and floods.