With its 6,435 km (4,000 mile) coastline, Chile receives hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds from the nearctic and neotropical regions. Some 30 shorebird species arrive in the country each year after completing journeys of up to 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles).
Chile’s long and rugged coastline features a variety of wetlands, including estuaries, coastal lagoons, and saltmarshes. These highly productive ecosystems provide refuge and food for resident and migratory birds. For example, approximately 25,000 Hudsonian Godwits and similar number of Red Knots spend their non-breeding season in the salt marshes of the Chiloé Archipelago and along the northern shore of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.
As in many parts of the Americas, birds that spend time in Chile are threatened by factors such as habitat loss, the introduction of exotic invasive species, the effects of climate change, and more. But in recent years, Chile has prioritized wetland conservation in the national agenda, opening opportunities to expand shorebird conservation.
For more than 15 years, Audubon has worked in Chile to protect migratory shorebirds and their habitats. Among our first priorities was the Chiloé Archipelago, where we have worked with our partner, the Centro de Estudio y Conservación del Patrimonio Natural (CECPAN) on an integrated approach to wildlife conservation. In recent years our partnerships have expanded to include other local and regional NGOs as well as public-sector agencies such as the Chilean Ministry of Environment.
Where We Work in Chile
Chiloé Archipelago, Región de Los Lagos
IBA Humedal-Marisma Rocuant Andalién, and the communes of Concepción, Talcahuano, Penco y Hualpén, Región del Biobío
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the planet. They provide a refuge for biodiversity and important ecosystem services such as protection from floods, surges, soil erosion, and extreme climate events. They sequester carbon, provide recreation and tourism opportunities, and provide habitat for commercially harvested species.
Chile’s coast is part of the Humboldt Current System, one of the most productive marine ecosystems on earth. But Chile’s coast and wetlands—and the benefits they provide to birds and communities—are threatened by land-use change, degradation, and pollution. Audubon Americas projects in Chile aim to enhance shorebird conservation and empower local communities through nature-based solutions that include conservation action planning, coastal stewardship programs, and coastal wetland restoration.
Audubon Americas intends to improve coastal resilience by mainstreaming nature-based solutions into national agendas and strengthening community engagement to support conservation of migratory shorebirds and their critical habitats. Among our priority sites is Humedal-Marisma Rocuant Andalién, an Important Bird Area (IBA) that is endangered by human activity. Audubon and our partner, Comité Nacional Pro Defensa de la Flora y Fauna (CODEFF), are leading an initiative to mitigate threats to this important wetland. By fostering opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and implementing an innovative conservation action plan, we are joining forces to eventually remove this coastal wetland from Chile’s list of endangered sites.
We are working with the government to bring new policies and resources for wetland conservation and management along the coasts of Chile. In particular, we are supporting Chile’s National Plan for the Protection of Wetlands, a key opportunity to conserve wetlands and their benefits for local communities.
In Chile, only a small fraction of important bird habitats benefit from official protection. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Chile has adopted the 30x30 goal (a commitment to protect 30 percent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030) and has developed a National Plan for the Protection of Wetlands, which seeks to arrest the deterioration of wetlands and preserve their biodiversity. In addition, the Ministry of the Environment leads the GEF Coastal Wetlands project, which seeks to improve the ecological and conservation status of coastal ecosystems in Central-South Chile. With these actions and others, the Chilean Government has demonstrated a commitment to protecting coastal wetlands that are key habitats for hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds each year.
Audubon’s innovative Conserva Aves project will support Chile in its efforts to achieve its 30 x30 goal and protect critical habitats for the survival of shorebird populations. Audubon will also continue to support its partner CECPAN to promote municipal reserves and complementary tools to protect feeding and resting sites for the Hudsonian Godwit in the Chiloé Archipelago.
With the support of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Audubon helped secure long-term conservation of some of these important sites for shorebirds and waterbirds through land purchase of key tracts of land in Pullao, Curaco de Vélez y Huildad. In agreement with partner CECPAN, we will also carry out annual monitoring to guarantee the conservation status and reduce threats.
Building a Constituency for Birds
National Strategy for Bird Conservation
In Chile, birds and other wildlife are threatened by land-use changes, destructive recreational activities, the effects of climate change, and many other factors. Disturbances to bird habitats often severely affect populations, reducing the long-term viability of species and putting the delicate balance of natural ecosystems at risk.
Although only a small fraction of important bird habitats in Chile currently benefit from official protection, the Chilean Government has demonstrated a commitment to protecting coastal wetlands that host hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds each year.
Chile’s National Bird Conservation Strategy is an important tool to face these threats. Developed by the Chilean Ministry of the Environment and supported by Audubon, this multi-sector initiative serves as a framework for policies and actions that protect birds and the places they live, as well as the valuable ecosystem services they provide.
When signed as an Exempt Resolution from the Ministry of the Environment, it will provide a legal status and the drive for the implementation of the strategy and its committee to formally take actions for national bird conservation
Our efforts also include community engagement to increase support for conservation of migratory shorebirds and their critical habitats. We are working to spread the word that, in addition to their intrinsic value, birds have great as indicators of ecosystem health, carbon-capture efficiency, and the success of ecosystem restoration measures.
Today we know that conservation can bring substantial economic benefits, especially to local communities near sites that are relevant to biodiversity. For instance, bird watching and bird-based tourism are growing in Chile, with more and more people seeking to get closer to nature through birds.