Evaluation of biological diversity under the perspective of the Ecosystem Approach of the Convention on Biological Diversity, on the basis of the example of the island Navarino (southern Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Horn Archipelago)

Project leadership: Prof Dr. Kurt Jax
Staff responible: Uta Berghöfer, Sanja Fistric, Dr. Elke Schüttler
Cooperation partners: Institute for Agrarökonomie, Göttingen University, Omora foundation, Puerto Williams, Chile
Funded by: German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the BioTEAM-Programme (01LM0208)
Project duration: July 2003 through June 2007

Project description

The project aims to evaluate measures of biological conservation and socioeconomic development in the sense of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and in particular under the perspective of the Ecosystem Approach of this convention, by means of an example region (case study) in southern Chile (Navarino island, Cape Horn Archipelago). This region is one of few not fragmented and only slightly transformed temperate forests of the world.
On the one hand it is characterized by high biological diversity (especially habitat diversity, but also of previously neglected species groups such as mosses and lichens) and naturalness as well as a high cultural diversity. On the other hand economic pressures such as Salmon farming projects, intensive tourism, construction of routes and other infrastructures are recently threatening the structure, function and composition of the southernmost biodiversity of the Americas. Human influences on local, regional and global scales associated with rapid social and economic changes in the near future will dramatically influence the fate of the local and regional biological diversity.

BIOKONCHIL will contribute significantly to the definition of a set of development and conservation policies respecting, extending and adapting local knowledge and innovative existing projects in the region. Its aim is to connect and integrate scientific findings, (socio-) economic evaluation procedures and evaluation procedures from the realm of environmental ethics. The objective is to provide critical criteria and guidance for policy and decision-making regarding the future development of the region. This linkage shall develop ecological theories, especially the ecosystem concept as a means to structure interdisciplinary research project of biological conservation and sustainable development. Great emphasis will be laid on the involvement of the different relevant actors and stakeholders. All parties who can effect or benefit from natural resources shall be fully involved in planning and managing the Navarino development strategy.

For this purpose the consequences of different development options for biological diversity shall be visualized and be discussed in their implications for the value systems of the actors. In a continuous interplay between the empirical conditions, the (also) socially determined images of nature of the actors, and the economic and moral values of these actors, recommendations for actions for the future development of the region shall be developed, in the sense of the connection of conservation, use and benefit sharing, as postulated in the CBD.

A relevant applied goal is to integrate the ecosystem approach of the CBD with a planned project of Chilean authorities and local actors to establish a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which also emphasizes the international significance of this area for the natural heritage of mankind. An important aim is also to develop such guidelines for decisions in spite of existing uncertainties. Such uncertainties exist both with respect to the biological and socioeconomic empirical data, as they are especially given in developing countries, as well as inherent uncertainties based on ecological-theoretical or epistemological limitations.
On the basis of the case study also a transferable method for the application of the Ecosystem Approach of the convention shall be developed in connection with evaluation procedures and the high integrative abilities of the ecosystem approach shall be developed methodologically. As such this study shall also at the same time supply a model study for the application of the approach as postulated in decision COP V/6 from the member states of the convention.

The region and its current situation 

The assigned example region/case study is the Chilean island Navarino, part of the Cape Horn Archipelago Region in the south of Tierra del Fuego. The natural settings of the island is in large parts only sparsely influenced directly by anthropogenic influences and possesses a high diversity of habitats (e.g., evergreen and deciduous Nothofagus forests, peat- and moorlands, wetlands, glaciers, alpine zones, bare rocks, freshwater streams, lakes and ponds, channels, and fiords) and also of some species groups (especially mosses and lichens). The population amounts to ca. 3000 inhabitants, including a small community of the indigenous Yamana- (or Yahgan, respectively) people. Anthropogenic influences up to now exist with a concentration in the coastal areas as well on a local level (use of wood, fisheries, cattle farming) as on a regional (fisheries, tourism) and global (invasive species, ozone depletion, fisheries) level.

Up to the 1990s access to the island was strongly restricted due to military reasons. Since then, many of the austral military reserves began to be opened. At the same time economic pressures, such as Salmon farming projects, intensive tourism, construction of routes and other infrastructures are threatening the southernmost biodiversity of the Americas. Pressures which will be accelerated through the planned partial retreat of the main employee, the Chilean navy, and development plans on the national level.
Strong changes in the social and economic conditions have thus to be expected during the next years, changes whose precise direction is still largely open. An important option here is seen in ecotourism, for which biological diversity is an important capital stock.
Under the lead of the Chilean scientists R. Rozzi, F. Massardo (both NGO foundation Omora, Chile and University of Connecticut, USA) and O. Dollenz (Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas, Chile) a research project is carried out since 3 years which aims at an integration of biological conservation and socio-economic development on the island, in which the BIOKONCHIL project leader K. Jax is associated. There are thus already well-established contacts with the different local and regional institutions (Gobernacion Tierra del Fuego Antarctica, Community of Navarino/Cabo de Hornos, local school, ethnological-natural history museum "Martin Gusinde", Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas, regional offices of the national Chilean environmental offices CONAMA and CONAF, regional military offices) and the different social groups on the island, including the indigenous Yahgan-community. Starting from this existing projects and in close cooperation with the current one, the establishment of a UNESCO/MAB Biosphere Reserve is currently under way. Also several international organizations (e.g. Earthwatch and the Audobon Society) are already working in this area together with R. Rozzi and F. Massardo and shall be won for a cooperation in the planned project.

Important options for the future development of the island, connected with coming structural changes, are: salmon farming in the many inlets of the island, native fishery, ecotourism, and a multitude of small activities which in part are also related to (eco) tourism: development of the local cuisine and gastronomy, cattle farming, horticulture, arts and crafts etc. Native fishery and the set of activities related to ecotourism are highly compatible. In contrast, salmon farming seems to be in conflict with those activities, and there are numerous reports of of negative environmental and social consequences in other regions of Chile and elsewhere. Evaluation of potential future economic scenarios based on native fishery, ecotourism and/or slamon farming are urgently required.

Additional cooperations 

Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arena, Chile
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago de Chile
University of North Texas, Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, Denton, Texas, USA
University of Georgia, Institute of Ecology, Athens, Georgia, USA

Selected publications related to the project

Berghöfer, U., Rozzi, R. and Jax, K. 2008. Diversity of perspectives on nature at the world’s southernmost town. - Environmental Ethics 30: 273-294

Berghöfer, U., Rozzi, R. and Jax, K. 2010. Many eyes on nature – diverse perspectives in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve and their relevance for conservation. - Ecology and Society 15(1): 18. [online] URL:

Haider, S. and Jax, K. 2007. The application of environmental ethics in biological conservation: a case study from the southernmost tip of the Americas. - Biodiversity and Conservation 16: 2559-2573.

Jax, K. 2010. Ecosystem functioning. - Cambridge University Press. 272 pp. (see especially Chapter 2)

Jax, K. and Rozzi, R. 2004. Ecological theory and values in the determination of conservation goals: examples from the temperate regions of Germany, USA and Chile. - Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 77: 349-366.
(also reprinted in: Nelson, M. P. and Callicott, J. B. (eds.), The wilderness debate rages on. University of Georgia Press, pp. 664-691.)

Jax, K., Schüttler, E. and Berghöfer, U. 2011. Von Bibern und Menschen auf Feuerland. - Geographische Rundschau 63: 28-32.

Rozzi, R., Armesto, J. J., Goffinet, B., Buck, W., Massardo, F., Silander, J., Arroyo, M. T. K., Russell, S., Anderson, C. B., Cavieres, L. A. and Callicott, J. B. 2008. Changing lenses to assess biodiversity: patterns of species richness in sub-Antarctic plants and implications for global conservation. - Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: 131-137.

Schüttler, E., Cárcamo, J. and Rozzi, R. 2008. Diet of the American mink Mustela vison and its potential impact on the native fauna of Navarino Island, Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile. - Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 81: 585-598.

Schüttler, E., Ibarra, J. T., Gruber, B., Rozzi, R. and Jax, K. 2010. Abundance and habitat preferences of the southernmost population of American mink: implications for managing a recent island invasion. - Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 725-743.

Schüttler, E., Klenke, R., McGehee, S., Rozzi, R. and Jax, K. 2009. Vulnerability of ground-nesting waterbirds to predation by invasive American mink in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile. - Biological Conservation 142: 1450-1460.

Schüttler, E., Rozzi, R. and Jax, K. 2011. Towards a societal discourse on invasive species management: a case study of public perceptions of the mink and beavers in Cape Horn -Journal for Nature Conservation in press.

Werner, R., Jax, K. and Böhmer, H. J. 2009. Vegetationsdynamik verlandeter Biberteiche auf der Insel Navarino (Feuerland-Archipel, Chile). - Tuexenia 29: 277-296.

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