Since 2011, the Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) has marshalled the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s research strengths to address the complex human and environmental pressures in the Galapagos archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace of evolutionary science.

The archipelago’s growing local population and burgeoning tourism trade have created ongoing tensions between resource conservation efforts and economic development. In 2007, the Galapagos Islands were labeled “at risk” by the United Nations from threats associated with population growth.

UNC and their partners at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) work on a series of studies to address the social and ecological stability of the Galapagos Islands.

In 2013, Ron Rindfuss, the Robert Paul Ziff Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, asked Carolina Demography to develop population projections to better understand the potential impacts of tourism on the Galapagos Islands, as well as the long-term sustainability of tourism development.

Approach

After conducting a literature review, we acquired and cleaned demographic and tourism-related data. We then created six population projections based on different growth models that took historic trends, state government goals, and potential development strategies into account.

Results

The results were presented to the President of the Galapagos Islands, other members of the state government, and members of the Galapagos National Park and Ministry of Tourism during a presentation on the potential impacts of tourism on long-term population growth and sustainability in the Galapagos Islands.

“Everybody was really happy with the results and my feeling is that they will want more of this type of study,” said a collaborator on the project.

 

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