This chapter describes reef-building coral formations along the mainland coast of Ecuador and in the Galápagos Islands with reference to coral species richness, community structure, relationship to physical and biotic controls, framework development, and distribution. Recent ecological work is noted in the context of physical and biotic processes controlling the development and maintenance of these marginal eastern Pacific coral formations. Coral reefs also occur in the coastal waters of mainland Ecuador, but these have not yet received detailed study. Most natural disturbances in the Galápagos are local and varied, including, tectonic uplift, rock slides, extreme low tidal exposures, and sea urchin bioerosion. Protracted sea warming associated with El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events have, in recent years, caused extensive coral bleaching, high mortality, and the subsequent loss of reef frameworks by intense bioerosion. Anthropogenic disturbances from anchoring, entanglement of fishing lines and nets, coral extraction and, along the mainland, poor land use leading to extensive soil erosion, siltation, and eutrophication, result in coral degradation. A management plan that provides for the protection of all wildlife in the Galápagos reserve, including a 40 km perimeter in surrounding waters, is to some degree compromised by a lack of resources to ensure enforcement. With increasing fishing pressure, tourism and population buildup, the likelihood of continued degradation of ENSO-damaged coral communities is high.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)