Diana Burbano

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Thomas Meredith
Start: 2013-09-02
End: 2018-11-30


Assessing Resource-Based Livelihoods in the Face of Tourism Development in the Galapagos Islands: A Comparative Analysis among Populated Islands
Management of the Galapagos Islands is increasingly discussed in terms of “social-ecological systems” (SESs). The principle management objectives are related to biodiversity conservation and tourism development, but traditional resource-based livelihoods are still important, both as demographic components of the islands, and as determinants of environmental change. Understanding the contrasting dynamics of these sectors, based on the unique context of each island, will be important to sustainable management of the islands’ SESs. Fishing and farming livelihoods in the Galapagos were the main economic activities at the beginning of the colonization around 1830. In the last two decades, other economic sectors, such as wholesale and retail trade, public administration, and tourism have been more appealing for the locals. Likewise, regulations affecting the livelihoods have increased as conservation objectives have increased in importance. Although some farmers have abandoned their lands to become involved in emerging economic sectors, and some fishermen have left the fishery to work in tourism activities, a significant part of the population still depends on these resource-based livelihoods. The dynamics of these livelihood vary from island to island in ways that are associated with the historical context of each island and to the degree to which tourism has grown. While other economic sectors seem to be more profitable, people working in resource-based livelihoods have other motivations other than economic returns to keep working in their established sectors. This project uses a mixed methods approach, combining field surveys (288) and key-informant interviews (57) conducted to assess: 1) perceived changes in profitability and viability of resource-based livelihoods within the island’s economy, and the perceived livelihood opportunities in the expanding tourism sector; 2) the perceived importance and effectiveness of institutional support in relation to changes in individual livelihoods; 3) the nature of engagement of actors from within each sector in participatory decision-making processes; and 4) how people envision the future of their resource-based livelihoods in relation to the expansion of tourism. The opportunities to transition into tourism are evident, and are promoted by local and national development strategies and management policies. However, there are strong reasons for adherence to established resource-based livelihoods. Despite sharing similar histories, regulatory environments and economic opportunities, there are marked contrasts between the inhabited islands. Identifying successes and barriers should help formulate improved strategies for advancing conservation sustainable management both on the islands and elsewhere where pressures from conservation, tourism and resource-based livelihoods interact.


Sustainable Development, Nature Tourism, Sustainable Livelihoods, Biodiversity Conservation, Public Participation, Environmental Decisions, Galapagos Islands


1- Do Smallholder, Mixed Crop-Livestock Livelihoods Encourage Sustainable Agricultural Practices? A Meta-Analysis
Rudel, Thomas, Oh-Jung Kwon, Birthe Paul, Maryline Boval, Idupulapati Rao, Diana Burbano, Megan McGroddy, Amy Lerner, Douglas White, Mario Cuchillo, Manuel Luna, Michael Peters
2016 Land

2- Carbon Stocks in Silvopastoral Systems: A Study from Four Communities in Southeastern Ecuador
McGroddy, Megan E., Amy M. Lerner, Diana V. Burbano, Laura C. Schneider, Tom K. Rudel
2015 Biotropica

3- The spontaneous emergence of silvo-pastoral landscapes in the Ecuadorian Amazon: patterns and processes
Lerner, Amy M., Thomas K. Rudel, Laura C. Schneider, Megan McGroddy, Diana V. Burbano, Carlos F. Mena
2014 Regional Environmental Change