Galapagos mangroves, key ecosystems for fish diversity

25 May 2021 – 17:50

Juvenile fish in a mangrove forest in Galapagos (Ecuador). EFE / Octavio Aburto

Quito, May 25 (EFE) – The mangroves of the Ecuadorian archipelago of Galapagos are key ecosystems for the diversity of fish species, according to a study revealed this Tuesday by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the University of California, with the support of the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (GNPD).

This is the most extensive study of the diversity and abundance of fish in the mangrove ecosystems that has been carried out in the Galapagos Islands, located about a thousand kilometers from the Ecuadorian continental coast and classified as Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The researchers visited 28 mangrove areas on six islands in the archipelago, where they used a combination of two sampling methods – remote stereo cameras and underwater visual censuses – to describe the diversity and abundance of fish that live among the roots of the mangroves.

In total, more than 35,000 fish belonging to 92 species were registered, of which at least 30 are important for the artisanal fisheries of the Galapagos, such as snapper and cod, says the Foundation’s note.

Several species of sharks and rays were also found, which are, in turn, of great importance for the tourism sector.


But mangroves not only provide important habitat for fish, they provide a variety of environmental services such as coastal protection and carbon sequestration.

In another study led by scientists from the Foundation in 2019, it was estimated that the environmental services provided by the Galapagos mangroves contribute 62 million dollars annually (more than 50 million euros at current exchange rates) to the archipelago’s tourism industry, and more than 900,000 dollars (735,000 euros) annually to local fisheries.

Regarding the study of mangroves, Denisse Fierro Arcos, Foundation scientist and lead author, mentions that the Galapagos are the only volcanic islands in the Eastern Pacific where mangroves are found naturally.


Foundation scientists used satellite images to map the distribution of these mangroves throughout the archipelago and estimated that they are present in about a third of all coastal areas.

Despite the importance of these ecosystems, to date there was little information on the fish species that use them throughout the archipelago and their importance as nursery areas for species of socio-economic interest, the note adds.

Previous work on the mangroves of the Galapagos has largely focused on the inhabited islands of the archipelago or a subset of species.


This study builds on these earlier work to broaden understanding of the importance of these habitats and contribute to the development of strategies and policies that can protect these areas more effectively.

“During the juvenile stages, fish of various species, including young sharks, are very vulnerable to becoming a predator’s lunch,” recalled the Foundation scientist, Pelayo Salinas de León.

And for this reason – he added – the “complex root systems of mangroves not only provide an excellent hiding place for these baby fish, but also offer a source of food during this critical stage in their development.”


Despite the ecological and socioeconomic importance of the mangroves in the archipelago, under the zoning of the Galapagos Marine Reserve in force since 2001, only 5% of the mangrove areas on the islands receive full protection from extractive activities.

“Their protection status should be re-evaluated when designing new zoning plans to ensure that these areas receive adequate protection and thus can continue to contribute to the local tourism and fishing industry,” said Fierro Arcos. EFE

Read the original coverage from EFE Verde at

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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