Environmental Conservation


Representativeness of terrestrial ecosystems in Chile's protected area system


a1 Spatial Ecology Group, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

a2 Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile


Because protected areas are a major means of conservation, the extent to which ecosystems are represented under different protection regimes needs to be ascertained. A gap analysis approach was used to assess the representativeness of Chile's terrestrial ecosystems in differing kinds of protected areas. Terrestrial ecosystems were described in terms of potential vegetation, employing three protection scenarios. Scenario 1 was based exclusively on the Chilean National System of Protected Wild Areas (SNASPE). Scenario 2 included all types of public protected areas, namely SNASPE, nature sanctuaries and Ministry of National Heritage lands. Scenario 3 included all items in Scenario 2, but also included private protected areas and biodiversity priority sites. There is insufficient protection of terrestrial ecosystems under the Scenario 2. In addition to the low level of ecosystem protection provided by state protected areas (only 42 of the 127 terrestrial ecosystems had >10% of their area protected), 23 terrestrial ecosystems were identified as having no protection at the national level. Gaps in protection were concentrated in the North (both coastal and inland desertic scrub), Central (thorny scrub, thorny forests, sclerophyllous forests and deciduous coastal forests) and Austral (steppe ecosystems) regions of Chile. These gaps include ecosystems that are of global conservation importance.

(Received April 14 2010)

(Accepted November 11 2010)

(Online publication May 09 2011)


c1 Correspondence: Patricio Pliscoff e-mail: patricio.pliscoff@unil.ch