A recent study – published in Scientific Reports on January 14 – reveals the secret behind the volcanic Galapagos Islands’ preservation of its rich biodiversity to this day.
Regional ocean rotation
According to a press release published on the Eurek Alert website, scientists have developed an international team from the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Center and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. In Ecuador; A high-resolution computer model for studying the regional ocean circulation around the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Archipelago consists of volcanic islands spread on both sides of the equator in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, and is about 900 km from the South American mainland.
These islands are considered a global biological landmark, due to the unique richness of the diverse and indigenous organisms that live in them. These islands inspired Charles Darwin to write his theory of evolution, and today they are one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sites and marine reserves on Earth.
Ocean and atmosphere
The results of computer modeling of the movement of water circulation around the island showed that the local winds that are heading north cause an increase in the intensity of the upward deep water currents surrounding the Galapagos Islands, which in turn generate severe swirling disturbances in the upper water layers of the ocean on the western side of those islands.
The violent gyroscopic disturbances thus cause the deep waters to rise towards the ocean surface, thus providing the nutrients needed to maintain the Galápagos ecosystem. The upper layers of the ocean are regions with sharp differences in temperature, as are the thermal differences in the layers of the atmosphere.
The researchers found that the local interactions between the upper layer of the ocean and the layer of the atmosphere that touch it is the main factor that controls the movement and abundance of deep upward waters around the Galapagos Islands, and these interactions are considered to be of a high degree of specificity according to the nature of the studied area.
These findings – regarding where and how deep ocean nutrient injections occur in the Galapagos ecosystem – reinforce the newly developed plans to expand the Galapagos Islands as a marine reserve, and to improve their management in the face of mounting pressures from accelerating global warming.
For decades, scientists have known that the sustainability of the regional ecosystem is achieved through the rise of deep, cold waters that are rich in nutrients that provide the fuel for life necessary for the growth of phytoplankton, which is a fundamental start in the ecosystem as a whole, but the mechanism of the rise of deep waters was unknown until not long ago. .
Thus, this study provided basic knowledge about the factors controlling the height of deep waters, in addition to explaining their sensitivity to the climate. This is very important in assessing the resilience of the regional ecosystem against recent climate changes.
Hence, the researchers recommend the need to work on understanding and analyzing ocean-atmosphere interactions when observing the Galápagos ecosystem. With the aim of developing extensive plans to mitigate the consequences of climate change in the 21st century on the marine ecosystem in general.