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Chile - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Chile is a long and narrow South American country located to the west of the Andes, between latitudes 17° and 56°S and longitudes 66° and 75°W. Consequently, the country’s landscapes are extremely varied, consisting of desert, forest, valleys, mountains and several distinct ecosystems. Chile possesses around 30,000 species, 25% of which are endemic. The central and southern zones of the country are considered a global biodiversity hotspot and among the most threatened. Chile’s Atacama Desert is considered the driest in the world, while the Valdivian temperate rainforests, dominated by evergreen angiosperm trees, are unique to southern Chile and Argentina on the South American continent. Chile is also located within the "Pacific Ring of Fire”, an area prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also claims around 480,000 square miles of Antarctica as part of its territory however this claim is currently suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. The forestry, fisheries, agriculture and tourism sectors depend directly on renewable natural resources and account for 9.7% of the GDP while providing at least one million direct jobs.

In general, ecological conditions are better in southern Chile and worse in the country’s central zone. In the northern zone, activities conducted by the mining and agricultural sectors are negatively impacting the status of rivers and lakes and coastal wetlands. The country’s terrestrial ecosystems have experienced a major loss in native forest cover, particularly in the central zone with rates reaching between 3.5% and 4.5% annually. Over the last 2 decades, ecosystems located in the coastal zone of Maule (VII Region) and Bio Bio (VIII Region) lost about 26% of their coverage. During the same period, losses of 10% to 20% have been recorded in 11 other ecosystems in the central zone, mainly due to the establishment of new forest plantations in these areas. Anthropic ecosystems meanwhile have come to occupy 12% of the national territory, transforming natural ecosystems, forests, scrub, deserts and steppes into residential areas, roads and productive land.

There is insufficient information to provide an account of the loss and/or alteration of marine ecosystems and component species. Moreover, no official classification system exists to properly plan and manage these ecosystems. The global Ocean Health Index ranks the conservation status of Chile’s marine biodiversity as “good”; the same status is however not applicable to fisheries and aquaculture resources that are presently overexploited. Oceanic islands, such as the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, considered a biodiversity hotspot, face serious conservation problems due to the introduction of invasive alien species, the absence of integrated land management and sustainable resource management, among other factors. As for inland aquatic ecosystems, the absence of data and systematized information and monitoring also prevents a complete picture from being formulated.

Among described species, amphibians are the most threatened group, followed by mammals and reptiles. Invertebrate and fish species are lesser known groups. Estimates on the loss of genetic biodiversity within a specific timeframe or in an historical perspective are not available however initiatives to increase awareness in this field have been developed.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threats to biodiversity are changes in land use due to activities related to the forestry and agricultural sectors. Other threats are associated with urbanization, invasive alien species, forest fires, climate change and water extracted for mining and agricultural activities in the northern zone of the country.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Chile adopted its first National Biodiversity Strategy in 2003 which proposed the following strategic orientations: (i) ensure ecosystem conservation and recovery to significantly slow the loss of biological diversity before 2010; (ii) ensure the preservation of species and genetic heritage; (iii) promote sustainable production practices; (iv) strengthen interstitutional and intersectorial coordination for the integrated management of biodiversity; (v) establish formal and informal mechanisms required for the optimal management of biodiversity; (vi) strengthen environmental education, public awareness and access to information on biodiversity; (vii) strengthen and coordinate research; and (viii) consolidate funding mechanisms. Only 50% of the actions in the Strategy have been implemented for reasons associated with an absence of political will, change in priorities among the bodies responsible for implementation, lack of coordination and/or agreement and a lack of financial resources.

Activities are firmly in progress to revise the Strategy which will contain a vision to 2030 and consider the current global biodiversity agenda. The overarching strategic goals will focus on protection, restoration and sustainable use, with sub-strategies focused on CEPA and participation, institutional, financial and human capacity-building, knowledge strengthening and access and benefit-sharing. Chile also intends to develop resource mobilization strategies and indicators, as well as Regional Biodiversity Strategies.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Awareness-raising activities are being carried out through an afforestation programme begun in 2010 and that will be implemented through to 2018. The programme’s target is to plant 17 million trees (approximately 50% correspond to native species) with the participation of municipalities, businesses, educational institutions, organizations, neighbourhoods and the general public.

Chile recently joined the World Bank WAVES Initiative and was also selected by the United Nations to carry out pilot projects on ecosystem accounting.

As a signatory to various free trade agreements, Chile is obliged to improve the sustainability of some of its products in accordance with the provisions of these agreements. In the forestry sector, a culture of certifying production processes by productive enterprises exists nowadays, complementing the international rules and standards governing sectors linked to the export of natural resources. In the field of waste management, the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has been introduced as an environmental protection strategy.

Concerning invasive species, success has been achieved in eradicating the rabbit on Santa Clara Island while progress is being made towards its eradication in the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. Meanwhile the most harmful alien species (e.g. beaver, mink) are increasing. A Resolution was adopted in August 2013 on the creation of an Operations Committee for the Prevention, Control and Eradication of Invasive Alien Species which will be coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment.

Work on protected areas is advancing however there exist significant gaps in ecosystem representation, among other gaps. At present, terrestrial protected areas comprise 20% of the national territory, while marine protected areas comprise 4.3% however 99% of this surface corresponds to only 1 marine protected area (Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park). In addition, the management effectiveness of the marine protected areas has been determined to be low. A positive development has been the recent creation and implementation of the Committee on Protected Areas.

Regulations have been prepared and are currently being formalized for developing plans for the recovery, conservation and management of classified wild species. Plans have been proposed for the Hummingbird of Arica (XV Region), Little Tern (XV Region, I Region, II Region), Ruddy-headed Goose (XII Region), various amphibians, Darwin's Fox (VIII Region, IX Region, XIV Region, X Region) and 5 cactus species (XI Region).

Chile has not signed the Nagoya Protocol on ABS. Progress is slow in this area however internal discussions are being held among executive powers and actions carried out on matters related to genetic resources and access and benefit-sharing.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In 2010, Chile amended its Environmental Law (1994) which has enabled the country to achieve notable success in recent years with respect to institutional strengthening and designing and implementing policies, plans and programmes for the environment and biodiversity within the context of sustainable development. Institutions that have been recently created include the Ministry of Environment (replacing the National Environmental Commision (CONAMA)), the Environmental Assessment Service and the Superintendency of the Environment and Environmental Courts. Chile’s new law accords the Ministry of Environment greater powers in the field of biodiversity. The Environmental Assessment Service oversees the administration of the System on Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA). In addition, a draft bill was admitted to the National Congress in June 2014 on the creation of a Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service.

Chile’s National Plan for Climate Change Adaptation consists of 9 sectoral plans, one of which relates specifically to biodiversity. The Plan for Biodiversity is based on sustainable management and ecosystem conservation and restoration, through measures aimed at reducing anthropogenic and bioclimatic stresses and increasing capacity in the fields of research, monitoring, information and training. In this light, the Ministry of Environment is promoting the creation of a task force to address matters on ecological restoration and develop an implementation programme. Chile is a participant in the UN REDD+ programme.

Chile is a participant in the UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In 2013, the permanent inter-institutional coordination mechanism for managing Chile’s public territories known as the National System on Territorial Information (SNIT) merged with the National Infrastructure on Geospatial Data (IDE). This current system coordinates actions at the national and regional levels for the proper management of geospatial information; provides access in a timely and expeditious manner to the country’s geospatial information; promotes the use of geospatial information in state institutions for generating public policy and decision-making; provides framework guidance on norms, standards, technical specifications; and provides capacity development support to various entities. The IDE is linked to the National Environmental Information System (SINIA) which will ultimately be linked to the National CHM which is currently in the initial phases of development.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme