By Melanie Gade, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at WWF 

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Located 1,000 kilometers from continental Ecuador, the Galapagos is a shining microcosm of this rich biodiversity. The archipelago is largely shaped by three powerful marine currents that make it unlike any other ecosystem in the world.  

What Makes the Galapagos So Diverse?

It’s all in the water. Specifically, the trio of water currents that converge on the Galapagos.

The Humbolt Current is a cold, deep-water current that arrives in the Galapagos up the coast from South America and the Antarctic, bringing with it incredibly productive marine waters. It is thought that the endemic Galapagos penguin—along with many other species now endemic to the Galapagos—originally arrived on the islands via the Humbolt Current.

Giant turtle in the Galapagos

© Melanie Gade / WWF-US

Meanwhile, the Cromwell current comes from the East as a productive surface water current. Finally, the Panama Current hits the Galapagos to the North, bringing with it the limited rainfall that comes to the islands. Together, these currents shape weather patterns and deliver rich nutrients to the many species that call the Galapagos home. 

Protecting the Planet: A United Front

Galapagos penguin on rock

© Melanie Gade / WWF-US

In 2022, 196 countries signed the global biodiversity framework agreeing to protect 30% of the planet’s land and waters by 2030.

This was a transformative moment for global biodiversity protection; it gave the global community an aspirational “north star” to reverse biodiversity loss and injected new momentum into national processes to conserve and protect critical ecosystems.  

Eco-friendly Ecuador

Ecuador is a great example of a country that is working hard to partner with communities and other stakeholders in the country to deliver on this “30×30” commitment.

For example, in 2023, President Lasso declared the entire coast of Ecuador’s mainland (out to 8 nautical miles) a marine protected area.

In 2022, the Ecuadorian Government expanded the Galapagos Marine Reserve by 60,000 square kilometers, bringing the total area to 198,000 square kilometers.

Expanding Protections Across Borders

In addition to protecting its own areas, in 2021, Ecuador joined Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica in committing to create the largest transboundary marine protected area in the world. This effort spans 600,000 square kilometers (half of which is new protection) and together comprises an area roughly the size of California.


Pelican in Galapagos

© Melanie Gade / WWF-US

This initiative would help consolidate critical transboundary protection efforts and support migratory species—like humpback whales—that travel up the coastline of the Americas as part of their seasonal migration patterns.  

World Wildlife Fund works with countries like Ecuador to support their 30×30 ambitions in many ways. For instance, through a new collaborative called Enduring Earth, WWF and our partners are working to develop sustainable finance for protected and conserved areas in many locations throughout the world, including in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Adventure Travel Aids Conservation

As a WWF employee working to support this massive global effort, traveling to the Galapagos to see the species WWF and our partners, including Nat Hab, are working so hard to protect was an enriching experience!

Learn more about all of Nat Hab’s Galapagos adventures, from our flagship Galapagos Discovery to our photography-focused Galapagos Wildlife Photo Expedition.

Two sea lions laying down in the Galapagos

© Melanie Gade / WWF-US