Why Sub-Antarctic? | Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program

Why Sub-Antarctic?

Until the 20th century, high-latitude ecosystems in southwestern South America remained largely free of direct modern human impact due to their remote location, lack of terrestrial connectivity, and restricted access to areas under control of the Chilean navy. This region includes the Magellanic sub-antarctic evergreen rainforest ecoregion (49-56o S), which recently has been identified as one of the world's 24 most pristine ecoregions by Conservation International. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, construction of new access roads through primeval forests has increased the connectivity of this region with the mainland, and the Chilean navy is significantly reducing its presence. Concomitantly, the sub-antarctic region is now facing impending threats from various national and international development projects. The major ones include damming of several important rivers to generate hydroelectric power demanded by industrial growth in central Chile, broadening of the present road network, expanding the salmon farming industry into pristine fjords, lakes and estuaries, increasing unregulated tourism on uninhabited islands, and rapidly spreading exotic species (e.g., the North American beaver and mink).

We conducted a survey of global LTERs by latitude, and found that no official sites were as of yet present between 40-60os. In spite of its outstanding biodiversity and ecosystem attributes, the sub-antarctic ecoregion of South America is located within the only latitudinal range (40-60oS) that completely lacks international long-term ecological monitoring at the global scale today. We hope to address this with the formation of the new Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network.

See Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network

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