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Ten Principles for Biocultural Conservation at the Southern Tip of the Americas: the Approach of the Omora Ethnobotanical Park

Ricardo Rozzi, Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Chile; Universidad de Magallanes, Chile; Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, University of North Texas, USA; Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Univeristy of Chile, Chile
Francisca Massardo, Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Chile; Universidad de Magallanes, Chile
Christopher B Anderson, Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Chile; Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Univeristy of Chile, Chile; Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, USA
Kurt Heidinger, Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Chile
John A. Silander, Jr., Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Chile; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, USA


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Although there is general agreement among conservation practitioners about the need for (1) social involvement on the part of scientists; (2) interdisciplinary approaches; (3) working on local, regional, and global levels; and (4) implementing international agreements on biodiversity and environmental protection, a major challenge we face in conservation today is how to integrate and implement these multiple dimensions. Few researchers have actually offered hands-on examples for showing in practical terms how such integration can be accomplished. To address this challenge we present an innovative case study: the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, a long-term biocultural conservation initiative at the southern extreme of the Americas.

Located near Puerto Williams (55º S), Cape Horn Archipelago region, Chile, the Omora Park is a public-private reserve that provides material and conceptual foundations for three complementary conservation actions: (1) interdisciplinary scientific research; (2) informal and formal education, i.e., school, university, and training courses; and (3) biocultural conservation. The latter entails an actual reserve that protects biodiversity and the water quality of Puerto Williams’ watershed, as well as programs on Yahgan traditional ecological knowledge and interdisciplinary activities, such as “field environmental ethics” and ecotourism, carried out in the reserve. Being at the “end of the world,” and within one of the most remote and pristine ecoregions on the planet, Omora Park offers a “bio-cultural treasure.” At the same time, its geographical and technological isolation presents a challenge for implementing and sustaining conservation actions.

To achieve the general conservation goals, we have defined 10 principles that have guided the actions of Omora: (1) interinstitutional cooperation, (2) a participatory approach, (3) an interdisciplinary approach, (4) networking and international cooperation, (5) communication through the media, (6) identification of a flagship species, (7) outdoor formal and informal education, (8) economic sustainability and ecotourism, (9) administrative sustainability, and (10) research and conceptual sustainability for conservation. These principles have been effective for establishing the long-term Omora initiative, as well as involving multiple actors, disciplines, and scales. Upon these foundations, the Omora initiative has extended its local goals to the regional level through a successful 5-yr process in cooperation with the Chilean government to create the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, designated by UNESCO in June 2005, with the goal of establishing a long-term institutional-political framework that promotes social well-being and biocultural conservation at the southernmost tip of the Americas.

Key words

biocultural conservation; biosphere reserve; Cape Horn; Chile; environmental education; environmental ethics; flagship species; interdisciplinary; interinstitutional; sustainability; traditional ecological knowledge; Yahgan.

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087