Incentives for Galápagos protection

Small Galapagos island hill surrounded by sea waterASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes’ Founding Director Leah Gerber and Dean Diego Quiroga of the San Francisco de Quito University in Ecuador published a paper this week in Science magazine titled “Incentives for Galápagos protection.” Ecuador is one of the world’s most diverse ecological systems, supporting an abundance of biological diversity. At present, approximately 36% of the mainland of the country is designated as Key Biodiversity Areas. Last year, the Ecuadorian government established the new no take zone (NTZ) in one-third of the greater Galápagos Marine Reserve. Even though this initiative has been considered a success, gaps remain to be addressed—such as defining spatial management. Together, a team from Arizona State University, the San Francisco de Quito University and Conservation International are examining the economic costs and benefits of the established reserve to help inform multi-stakeholder agreements. In the paper, Gerber and Quiroga argue that “given Ecuador’s history of mortgaging natural resources to repay debt, it is especially important to establish financial incentives to ensure both compliance with and enforcement of environmental laws.” The authors suggest financial and technological mechanisms for biodiversity conservation and monitoring. These initiatives would be funded by the private sector and supported by government, stimulating innovation of ecosystem services and preventing illegal fishing in the region. “The ocean provides goods and services worth trillions of U.S. dollars annually, providing ample market opportunities for the public and private sectors to invest in sustainable marine activities,” they explain. During her 2017-18 sabbatical in Ecuador, Gerber is learning about and describing social-ecological systems and management institutions established to protect biodiversity to develop a guide for multi-stakeholder biodiversity conservation.