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Chile and its central zone: a global biodiversity case

As a complement to the IUCN methodology to assess the ecosystem threats, Chile has analyzed the quality of the available data regarding the current threats of 17 endemic ecosystems.

With 756,102 km2 of surface, Chile has the advantage of having diverse ecosystems scattered across the country, from the Atacama Desert to the Tierra del Fuego Province. At Chile’s central zone, the sclerophyllous forests are spread all over the region as plant formations that have been gradually reduced due to the growth of the urban centers, coal mining, agriculture and the devastating fires during the last decade.

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems has provided a methodology with the criteria to assess the threats of Chile’s sclerophyllous forests at its central region. The tool to accomplish this assessment was extracted from specific studies based on the alteration of vegetation structures to effectively quantify the decrease of ecosystem’s distribution. The results from this study were published by Alberto Alaniz et al. on the renowned Biological Conservation magazine.

The team in charge assessed spatial and temporal quality intervals for the Chile chapter, and estimated the percentage of potential ecosystems distribution, projected to 50 years, adjusted to the time recommended by the IUCN method.

The implementation of the methodology allowed to evaluate a high percentage of ecosystems (85%), classified according to the studies that considered temporal quality between 30% and 100% and spatial quality between 12% and 100%. Considering only those evaluations ranked with an average interval above 50%, eight out of the seventeen assessed ecosystems are classified as threatened, which represents 22.9% of the area of study. There are many other aspects worth highlighting in this study, that englobes the RLE assessments of the Mediterranean climatic zone at the center of Chile.

Among the exemplary characteristics from this evaluation, the use of a proper ecosystem classification is worth mentioning. Several authors have provided insightful reasons to justify the types of ecosystems along the study, as well as a compilation of relevant data, although a comprehensive coverage of a whole area of study is always desirable.

The study demonstrates a way of harnessing the opportunities of the existing data that only covers partially the distribution of one type of ecosystem, as well as provide a new evaluation of the data quality considering the spatial and temporal coverage with regards to the geographic domain of the assessment and the periods of time according the RLE criteria.

In the latter case, the authors consider the overall assessment of the criteria with the most data coverage. This approach could be even more developed if the coverage representation is considered – a relatively small spatial coverage can give an important idea about the global trends, as well as incorporate the results based on a low data coverage with uncertainty limits.

This investigation included the participation of the Laboratory of Fragmented Landscape Ecology, the Department of Biological Animal Science, the Department of Environmental Science and Natural Renewable Resources, and the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2), from the University of Chile, as well as the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) .

The LRE team acknowledged the quality of this investigation and is also interested in reviewing the assessments of the seventeen ecosystems to include them in the red list, given that these ecosystem are nowhere to be found outside Chile.


Written by: Marianna Collet C. 

Translation: Claudia Cayama

Provita Apr 21, 2017


IUCN Red List of Ecosystems


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