Scientists discover the world’s highest concentration of native marine species in Chilean islands

An unprecedented research lead by the NGO Oceana revealed in its report that the Juan Fernández and Desventuradas islands have a very high rate of endemism in relation to the rest of the planet.

Eduardo Sorensen
Eduardo Sorensen

Researchers conducted two unprecedented expeditions throughout 2014 and 2015 on the Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara islands, and on JF2 and JF1 seamounts in Juan Fernández Archipelago. Oceana announced the fieldwork results in a report («Marine Biodiversity in Juan Fernández and Desventuradas Islands, Chile: Global Endemism Hotspots») which highlights the large presence of unique species, much higher than in any other part of the globe.

The report included the participation of a team of experts like Dr. Alan Friedlander, a professor at the University of Hawaii and part of the Pristine Seas project of National Geographic, Carlos Gaymer of Universidad Católica del Norte and the Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Islands (ESMOI), Dr. Matthias Gorny from Oceana and Dr. Alvaro Palma of Fisioaqua. «About 62% of reef fish species known in Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas only live there. This is two to three times higher than in other areas known for their endemism, such as Hawaii and Easter Island, where 25% and 22% of fish, respectively, are endemic» Friedlander told AFP.

The report’s findings were welcomed by local authorities, which agree with the researchers in terms of the importance and the responsibility to protect these rich marine ecosystems: «Although we suspected it, we were surprised to know how much life we ​​had in these waters. This raises the challenge of managing and preserve these ecosystems for future generations» said Felipe Paredes, mayor of Juan Fernández.

Before this revelations were known, at the «Our Ocean» conference -held during October 2015 in Valparaíso- President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park (San Félix and San Ambrosio islands), with a protected area of 297,518 km2, in addition to the Multipurpose Coastal Marine Protected Area» Mar de Juan Fernández», with an approximate area of ​​12,109 km2 and five marine parks.