Scientists discover secret of Galápagos' rich ecosystem

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Image: Alexander ForryanNew research has unlocked the mystery of how the Galápagos Islands, a rocky, volcanic outcrop, with only modest rainfall and...
Image: Alexander Forryan

New research has unlocked the mystery of how the Galápagos Islands, a rocky, volcanic outcrop, with only modest rainfall and vegetation, is able to sustain its unique wildlife habitats.

The Galápagos archipelago, rising from the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean some 900 kilometres off the South American mainland, is an iconic and globally significant biological hotspot. The islands are renowned for their unique wealth of endemic species, which inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and today underpins one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Marine Reserves on Earth.

Scientists have known for decades that the regional ecosystem is sustained by upwelling of cool, nutrient-rich deep waters, which fuel the growth of the phytoplankton upon which the entire ecosystem thrives.

Yet despite its critical life-supporting role, the upwelling's controlling factors had remained…
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