Test Design Lighthouse

Patagonia Coastal Border

Sustainable Development & Nature Conservation in the Southern Chile

Chilean Patagonia, extending roughly from 41º to 56º south latitude, is a macro bioregion that displays an extremely creative geography resulting in a great diversity of landscapes, climates and ecosystems: from the Patagonian Pampas, to the east, passing over the mountains, to the fjords, channels and islands that generates the partial submersion of the Andean Cordillera in the Pacific Ocean, to the west.


There is undoubtedly a ‘common denominator’ feature which characterizes the whole of Patagonia: its coastal borders, meaning the continental littoral plus the coasts of its numerous fjords, peninsulas and myriad islands. The waters of the fjords and between the peninsulas and islands have different degrees of salinity than those of the open ocean, providing a greater diversity of ecological niches for the development of a wider diversity of species, resulting in that all of Patagonia’s oceanic waters teem with an extremely rich and diverse marine flora and fauna, including different species of whales and dolphins.


Patagonia is characterized by a great sweet water richness.

Patagonia is also characterized by a great sweet water richness in most of its territory, which has given form to important macro and micro watersheds and numerous rivers, lakes, glaciers, and three extensive ice fields - close to 17,000 km2 -, the only continental remnants of the last glaciation, one of the largest reserves of pure drinking water of the southern hemisphere and one of the largest of the planet. Also, the ‘Baker River’, in Patagonia, is Chile’s largest, and the ‘General Carrera Lake’, is the country’s most extensive. Geographically and ecologically the characteristics described above give Patagonia a strong marine and aquatic identity, which has been further strengthened by the fact that modern colonization occurred via the ocean.


Patagonia’s geographic isolation has contributed to the fact that it has remained, until quite recently, relatively apart from the accelerated industrial development of Chile’s other regions, based on the exploitation and primary processing of prime materials and natural resources. Consequently, Patagonia has not been exposed to many of the most severe negative impacts generated by central Chile’s development mode, stuck since colonial times on a primary (we say, ‘primitive’) productive phase.


Despite Patagonia’s outstanding, and internationally recognized environmental and cultural value, it is today on the sights of transnational companies for the implementation of mega industrial projects: salmon farming at a large scale, mega-hydroelectric facilities, mining, plantations, and others. Consequently, there is an acute need for the development, by stages, of an intense agenda of proactive and focalized work, that necessarily has to be coordinated among all the regional, national and international NGOs motivated by the environmental defense of Patagonia, to be able, in the mid and long term, to avoid the implementation of destructive projects and to debate, design and promote sustainable economic alternatives.


What has been accomplished so far

Torres del Paine National Park

The results of the project include the recording, compilation and analysis of information on the marine and coastal ecosystems of Patagonia as well as of biodiversity, industrial threats, environmental protec-tion initiatives and potential economic alternatives such as ecotourism.


The project also provided a source of information for the website - www.ecosistemas.cl and the compi-lation of a short written study. Other developments included environmentally compatible strategies and campaigns to create public awareness of ecological issues.


This forms the basis for coordinating an alliance of people and organisations on a regional national and international level.


The collection of data in a database contributed to furthering the potential of, and internal communica-tion in. regional organisations, especially in the areas of environmentally compatible strategies and fund-raising.


The database contains details of people and organisations, lists contacts in the local and national press, and provides details of members of parliament (senators and diplomats), government organisations on a regional and national level as well as independent experts. The database, with its current total of 2,800 records, is constantly updated and is made available to other organisations as part of a joint approach.


Development of studies

One aim of the project was the compilation of general information on Chilean Patagonia. This was col-lected in several stages:

- collection of information on the Patagonia coast from economic, social and ecological view-points.

- Structuring of relevant information to make it more user-friendly through an easily under-standable thematic approach.

- Production of a study which describes the economic, social and political administrative and environmental situation in Patagonia.


The study provides an overview of Patagonia’s coast as an ecosystem, its historical context and culture. The natural environment of Chilean Patagonia is represented as part of Chile’s territory, and refers to its conservation, economic life and possible threats. Moreover, interviews were held with participants in seminars and conferences organised by the project and are reproduced in the study. A comprehensive bibliography sums up the knowledge acquired to date. This is due to be published in the summer of 2007.



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The Project Team

The team developing the “Chilean Patagonia Coastal Border Project – Sustainable Development & Nature Conservation in the Patagonian Littoral”, a one year initiative co-financed by the Lighthouse Foundation and the Marisla Foundation from California, USA, came together in the year 2001 as the “Alianza Aysén Reserva de Vida” with the purpose of coordinating the regional, national and international opposition to the Alumysa project, an aluminum smelter that a Canadian mining company, Noranda, intended to build in the heart of Patagonia.


After three years of intense work focalized on the opposition to Alumysa, the smelter project was suspended, and now the same group, under the name Ecosistemas, is developing proactive work for the environmental defense of Patagonia, drawing on the experience acquired. The Alianza´s members developed close work relationships with local organizations, environmental leaders, as well as with representatives of different instances of the private and public sectors in Patagonia.