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Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia

On-line version ISSN 0718-686X

Abstract

ROZZI, Ricardo et al. A sentinel for monitoring climate change and its impact on biodiversity at the southern summit of the Americas: The new Cape Horn Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network. Anales Instituto Patagonia (Chile) [online]. 2020, vol.48, n.3, pp.45-81. ISSN 0718-686X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-686X2020000300045.

Biosphere reserves have among their functions to support scientific research, education, training and monitoring. In the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (RBCH), created in 2005, this function has been fulfilled with the creation of the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in 2000, and its implementation in 2008 as a co-founder site of the Chilean Network of Studies Long-Term Socio- Ecological (LTSER-Chile). In 2016, this network has been strengthened with the addition of the new Cape Horn Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network (LTER-Cape Horn). The latter includes the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, and three new sites added to the monitoring of the sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion. From south to north, the four sites are: (1) Gonzalo Island (56°31’S; 68°43’O), at the southern end of the Diego Ramírez Archipelago, with sub- Antarctic vegetation dominated by grasses and cryptogams, devoid of woody species; (2) Horn Island (55°58’S; 67°13’O), at the southern end of the Cape Horn Archipelago, hosting the southernmost forest ecosystems on the planet, which are dominated by the evergreen beech (Nothofagus betuloides); (3) Omora Ethnobotanical Park (54°57’S; 67°40’O), Navarino Island, an ideal site for studies on climate change and its impact on biota and sub-Antarctic ecosystems, since it protects a watershed that includes a representative mosaic of characteristic habitats of the RBCH in an altitudinal gradient with a thermal decrease analogous to that which occurs with increases in latitude; and (4) Caleta 2 de Mayo Site (54°52’S; 68°41’O), Yendegaia Bay, in an ecotonal zone between evergreen and deciduous forests (product of the local climate gradient), at a site that will be central to future connectivity between Continental Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Navarino Island, and the RBCH. In 2015, UNESCO approved the Report of the First Periodic Review of the RBCH that proposed the protection of the Diego Ramírez Archipelago and the creation of the Diego Ramírez Islands-Drake Passage Marine Park. This goal was achieved with the promulgation of this new park on February 2, 2018, and its entry into force on January 21, 2019 with the publication of the creation decree in the Diario Oficial of Chile. In this context, the new LTER-Cape Horn network acquires great local, national and global relevance. At the local scale, it covers a representative environmental heterogeneity of the great diversity of landscapes and terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems of the RBCH and the sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion. At the national scale, it incorporates sub-Antarctic sites, located at the southern end of South America, to LTSER-Chile and to the Monitoring Network of the Ministry of the Environment. On a global scale, the terrestrial ecosystems of the LTER-Cape Horn network stands out for two main reasons: (1) these sub-Antarctic ecosystems lack a geographical replicate in other continents of the southern hemisphere, and (2) high latitude ecosystems are especially sensitive to global climate change. Thus, the LTER-Cape Horn network helps to overcome critical geographical gaps in the implementation of the International Network for Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER). In order to articulate these four sites and strengthen the training of technical capacities and knowledge transfer to decision makers in the area of special interest tourism and other sustainable economic activities, the LTER-Cape Horn network will be managed locally from the new Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center (Cape Horn Center) that will be inaugurated in Puerto Williams in 2021. The implementation of the LTER-Cape Horn network is based on a close collaboration with various public institutions: Ministry of National Assets, Ministry of the Environment, Subsecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Ministry of Economy Development and Tourism, National Forestry Service, General Water Directorate of the Ministry of Public Works, Navy of Chile, Chilean Police (Carabineros), Municipality of Cape Horn, Provincial Government of Chilean Antarctica, and the Regional Government of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica. In the following phases, the LTER-Cape Horn network and the Cape Horn Center aim to strengthen the participation of the local community, especially the Yahgan Indigenous Community of Bahía Mejillones, artisanal fisheries, tour operators, and the educational community, including private actors. Located at the “southern summit” of the Americas, Puerto Williams, capital of the Chilean Antarctic Province emerges as a global hub for transdisciplinary sub-Antarctic research, equipped with a new center and the network of long-term socio-ecological studies. Collaboration with regional, national and international actors will allow the LTER-Cape Horn network and the Cape Horn Center to: (i) provide critical data, which will open up new opportunities for monitoring climate change and its impact on biodiversity and ecosystems in sub-Antarctic latitudes; (ii) consolidate long-term monitoring, which is an essential component to effectively design mitigation and adaptation actions; (iii) strengthen a local sustainable development model that, associated with the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, contributes from the south of the world, to a biocultural conservation model that meets the needs of socio-economic well-being and environmental sustainability at multiple regional and planetary scales.

Keywords : climate change; biocultural conservation; sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion; exotic species; biosphere reserves.

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