The politics of invasion: defining and defending the natural, native and legal in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Brewington, Laura
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • This dissertation analyzes contemporary politics and practices designed to manage species invasions and human population impacts in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. Due to the high connectivity and movement of people around the world, non-native species are often introduced into protected areas, where human activity is also viewed as an invasion into nature. In the Galápagos, population growth and more recently, tourism, have been linked to an increase in invasive species that pose threats to the local biodiversity. As a result, in 2007 Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa declared an ecological crisis in the islands, which continues to intensify with record tourist numbers (over 180,000 in 2009), a population growth rate of 6%, and new species introductions via air and sea. Through the lens of political ecology, this research uses case studies to describe how invasion, writ large, is understood and experienced differently across stakeholder groups and the landscape. Remote sensing analysis of vegetation cover in an area of the Galápagos National Park that was invaded by feral goats shows landscape-level vegetation decline during the invasion, and regrowth following eradication, but not necessarily in areas where goats were heavily concentrated. The long-term environmental effects of large-scale eradication programs also call into question claims of ecosystem restoration, and naturalness itself. Interviews among highland landowners and participation in land management practices show that the recent agricultural decline found on Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands is the result of interrelated environmental, economic and political factors, including species invasions, market instability, park-only policies and labor shortages. Participatory remote sensing further illustrates that different highland user groups have divergent perceptions of landscape productivity and degradation due to invasive species. Since the late 1990s, legislation has been implemented to control unlawful environmental behavior and illegal migration, but economic disparities perpetuate old tensions between residents of the islands and the Ecuadorian mainland. Cluster analysis of survey data finds that Galápagos residents have diverse stakes in island conservation and economic growth related to the booming tourism industry, while interviews among temporary and illegal migrants characterize the everyday vulnerability associated with migrant legal status in their own country.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Geography."
  • Walsh, Stephen J.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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