SER has led the way in ecological restoration over nearly 30 years, connecting more than 4,000 members around the world and championing effective practices and policies. The conference this year was no different, as around 1,000 academics, professionals, and scientists gathered in person for first time since 2019. They discussed the urgent imperatives of eco-system restoration.
Highlight of the event was Tapia’s presentation entitled “Rewilding Giant Tortoises : Engineering Plant Communities on the Galapagos Islands,” in which she explored the essential role giant tortoises play in revitalizing island ecosystems. Dr. Tapia stressed the importance of reintroducing giant animals, such as Galapagos tortoises. He also showed how their presence can revitalize entire plant ecosystems.
Tapia shared his insights about how the resurgence in giant tortoise population has affected plant communities at various scales. He noted that the resultant increase in herbaceous and decline in wooden plants. He called this phenomenon a “cascade” effect, where a single shift, such as the tortoises eating only certain plants, causes ripples in the ecosystem. The presence of the tortoises on the island has a domino effect, bringing about benefits for all the diverse species.
Tapia’s presentation raised the profile of Galapagos Islands and Ecuador internationally, but also highlighted a holistic approach to nature. He stressed the intrinsic value each species has as a contributor towards ecosystem health and resilience. Reintegration of giant tortoises and other megafauna is a testament of the Galapagos Conservancy’s collaborative efforts with the Galapagos National Park Directorate. This sets a benchmark for comprehensive island rehabilitation.
Events such as SER2023 highlight the importance of a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to addressing the ecological challenges facing the 21st Century. Washington Tapia is leading the way to a more sustainable and greener future.