UGA Fulbright Scholars help bring UNESCO designation to Chile’s Cape Horn


Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Writers: Laurie Anderson, 706/542-3379, laurie@uga.edu Christopher Anderson, 706/542-4366, cba@uga.edu

Contacts: Christopher Anderson, 706/542-4366, cba@uga.edu Steven Elliott-Gower, 706/542-6206, segower@uga.edu

UGA Fulbright Scholars help bring UNESCO designation to Chile’s Cape Horn

Athens, Ga. – Thanks in part to the efforts of University of Georgia Fulbright students Christopher Anderson and Juan Harcha, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Chile’s Cape Horn area as a World Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is located at the southern tip of Chile and includes the marine areas and islands that make up the Cape Horn Archipelago.

This is the first biosphere reserve declared in Chile since 1984 and the first ever that includes marine and human-populated areas. It joins a world-wide network of sites in which local communities are actively involved in environmental conservation.

“Classifying an area as a biosphere reserve is an excellent method of land-use planning that promotes sustainable development and conveys international prestige upon the area, while at the same time seeking out and integrating collaboration with the local population,” said Anderson. “The UNESCO recognition highlights the area’s importance for world biological and cultural heritage,” he added, “and provides a framework for administration that helps to ensure both sustainable and equitable development for the area’s residents as well as natural resource conservation.”

Anderson is a student in UGA’s Institute of Ecology, currently completing his doctoral dissertation about the effects of introduced beavers on stream ecosystems in Cape Horn. He has worked in Chile since 1999 and was a Fulbright Scholar and National Security Education Program Boren Fellow to Chile in 2003. Harcha is a Chilean Fulbright Scholar currently studying international law with emphasis on the Antarctic Treaty at the Dean Rusk Center - International, Comparative and Graduate Legal Studies. In the fall, he will begin the certificate program in conservation ecology at the university’s Institute of Ecology. Formerly, he was the attorney for the Chilean Antarctic Province.

The new Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve is the homeland of the native Yahgan people, the world’s southernmost ethnic group for 7,000 years, but which now is threatened with cultural extinction. In addition, these are the world’s southernmost forest ecosystems with such imperiled species as the giant Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) and the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), the world’s largest flying bird.

The awe-inspiring landscape, known best as a graveyard for sailing ships, was also a proving ground for Charles Darwin as a young naturalist aboard the Beagle and was pivotal to the formulation of his concept of evolution by natural selection. Today, Eduardo Barros, the provincial governor, describes the area as “luminous” because of the unique qualities of light that mix and reflect off the beryl blue glaciers, the slate gray sea, the gleaming white summits and the verdant green forests and mosses.

It is precisely this mixture of the region’s geographical, historical, cultural, scientific and ecological singularities that has merited recognition by UNESCO, but which was made possible only through the efforts of dedicated scientists and public officials who have agreed through the application process to fulfill the goals of a biosphere reserve, which include:

* Conservation – to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation; * Development – to foster economic and human development, which is socioculturally and ecologically sustainable; * Logistics – to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.

Both Anderson and Harcha have served as leading members of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve Initiative Steering Committee since 2002 in conjunction with the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (www.omora.org), which spearheaded the designation process. Other UGA activities in the Cape Horn area have also included the projects of three undergraduate interns and two CURO Fellows’ honors theses at the Omora Park. The newly approved UGA Antarctic study abroad program also will pass through the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve on its maiden voyage to the white continent this December.

Each year the Fulbright Program awards more than 1,100 grants to U.S. and international students with the goal of promoting greater understanding between the United States and the people of other countries. The work of UGA’s Fulbright scholars in the Chilean Cape Horn Archipelago demonstrates that these activities can have concrete and lasting results.

For more information on UGA’s Fulbright program, contact advisor Steven Elliott-Gower (segower@uga.edu).