From: Galapagos Volcano Fire Threatens Endemic Tree Species
Published November 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Galapagos Volcano Fire Threatens Endemic Tree Species

QUITO, Ecuador — A fire sparked by last month's volcanic eruption on the largest of the famed Galapagos Islands is threatening an endemic tree species, officials said Saturday.


Galapagos National Park rangers are dumping water from helicopters to extinguish a fire started by a lava flow six days ago on the seahorse-shaped island of Isabela, fearing that the native tree species scalesia cordata -- of which only 400 adult trees remain -- will be destroyed, the park's director told The Associated Press by telephone.


"It is a rather dry area," director Washington Tapia said, adding that close to 500 hectares (1,235 acres) have already been burned. A team of 25 park rangers are digging a trench in attempt to isolate the fire, Tapia said.


The 1,500-meter (4,920-feet) high Sierra Negra volcano, which first began erupting on Oct. 22, has stopped erupting, but "collateral effects -- like fires -- could continue," said Hugo Yepez of the Ecuadorean Geophysics Institute.


The last time Sierra Negra erupted was in 1979.


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The Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) off Ecuador's Pacific coast, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 for their exotic wildlife such as marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies. The islands' rich biodiversity inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.


Source: Associated Press


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