Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 519–532 | Cite as

Interdisciplinary historical vegetation mapping for ecological restoration in Galapagos

  • Mandy Trueman
  • Richard J. Hobbs
  • Kimberly Van Niel
Research Article


Improving our knowledge of pre-anthropogenic landscapes is vital for understanding landscape-scale heterogeneity and for setting goals and objectives for ecological restoration. This is especially important in highly modified landscapes that contain few remnants of pre-impact ecosystems. This study aims to develop new methodology to improve understanding of historical vegetation, using the now-degraded inhabited highlands of the Galapagos Islands as a case study. Our multidisciplinary approach innovatively combines data from interviews with residents who were familiar with the vegetation before most degradation occurred with the more traditional sources of historical aerial photography and information from early explorer and scientist reports. We reconstruct historical vegetation across the landscape by mapping it in the year 1960 and discussing this map in the historical context of anthropogenic change. Our results confirm published vegetation types but also define some other types not previously described, and suggest much greater spatial, temporal and structural heterogeneity than commonly understood. This result can be used by Galapagos land managers to better match species assemblages with sites and plan restoration actions that will maximise resilience against the ongoing and future threats of climate change and species invasions. Our methodology can be applied in extensive areas of the world where the majority of anthropogenic disturbance to natural ecosystems has been within the past 60 years.


Oral history Aerial photography Mapping uncertainty Reference ecosystems Heterogeneity 



We are indebted to the long-term residents of Santa Cruz Island for so openly sharing their memories, and many other Galapagos residents for helping us to find these people. Thanks to Mark R. Gardener and Anne Guézou for encouraging the interviews and for comments on a draft of this manuscript. Postgraduate research funding and a scholarship from the University of Western Australia enabled this work, along with a donation from the Belgian Science Policy Office. This publication is contribution number 2056 of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands.

Supplementary material

10980_2013_9854_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (127 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 91 kb) (57 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (ZIP 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mandy Trueman
    • 1
    • 3
  • Richard J. Hobbs
    • 1
  • Kimberly Van Niel
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Plant Biology, University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Earth and Environment, University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Charles Darwin FoundationPuerto AyoraEcuador

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