Integrating Ecology and Environmental Ethics: Earth Stewardship in the Southern End of the Americas Page: 227
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The South American temperate forest biome:
A globally significant gap in ILTER
High latitudes harbor the world's largest expanses of remote
biomes that remain the least altered by direct modern human
impact (Sanderson et al. 2002, Ellis and Ramankutty 2008).
More than 50% of the 76 million square kilometers (km2)
of terrestrial wilderness areas identified by Mittermeier
and colleagues (2003) is found above 45 degrees () lati-
tude in both hemispheres. Moreover, of the 13.5 million
km2 of old-growth forests classified as frontier forests by
Bryant and colleagues (1997), an estimated 54% occurs in
Russia, Canada, Alaska, and southwestern South America,
at latitudes greater than 45. Consequently, high-latitude
forest ecosystems and their associated wetlands offer an
unparalleled opportunity for global society to undertake
proactive international collaboration aimed at conserving
these regions and conducting long-term ecological research
(LTER) (Chapin et al. 2006, Rozzi et al. 2006, 2008a). In
addressing this challenge, however, the scientific com-
munity is strongly constrained by a regional bias in the
intensity of current long-term research efforts, which are
numerous in the temperate latitudes of North America and
Europe but largely absent from southern latitudes (Lawler
et al. 2006).
A major planetary LTER initiative, the ILTER network
(www.ilternet.edu) encompasses 543 sites in 44 countries.
However, 509 of these sites (93.7%) are located in the
Northern Hemisphere, whereas only 34 sites (6.3%) are
in the Southern Hemisphere (figure 1). In the Northern
Hemisphere, ILTER sites are predominantly found at high
latitudes. More than 60% of the ILTER sites (n = 348)
are concentrated in temperate and boreal latitudes over
40 north (N), and less than 30% of ILTER sites (n = 161)
occur at subtropical and tropical latitudes (0-40 N).
In addition, less than 10% (n = 34) of the world's ILTER sites
have been established within the tropical latitudinal range
between 20 N and 20 south (S) (figure 1), where most of
the world's biodiversity is found (Myers et al. 2000).
Less noticed but also critical for global coverage of ILTER
is the absence of sites at temperate and sub-Antarctic
latitudes in the southern continents. There are currently no
ILTER sites at latitudes between 40 S and 60 S. Beyond
sub-Antarctic latitudes, at polar latitudes (greater than
60 S), we find a few ILTER sites in Antarctica. Therefore,
the latitudinal range between 40 S and 60 S currently rep-
resents the only absolute gap for ILTER coverage (figure 1).
This blind spot neglects an entire temperate biome and
precludes long-term comparative research on high-latitude
ecosystems in both hemispheres. The South American
temperate and sub-Antarctic forests cover a vast area that
harbors the world's southernmost forest ecosystems and
has remained relatively free of direct human impact in
modern times (Armesto et al. 1998). New ILTER sites estab-
lished at the austral sub-Antarctic (40o-60o S) latitudes
would foster comparisons with data sets from equivalent
sites in the Northern Hemisphere, which are essential to
N 20"-0"N 0"-20"S 2
80"-60N 60-40N 40"-20"
0- 40S 40- 60"S 60-80'S
Figure 1. Relative percentage of study sites in the
International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER)
network at different latitudinal intervals. In addition to the
lack of sites in the Southern Hemisphere in general, there is
a notorious gap in the temperate and sub-Antarctic regions
of South America, between 40 degrees (o) south (S) and
60 S. In contrast, a large number of Northern Hemisphere
ILTER sites concentrate between 40 N and 60 N. The data
for the 543 ILTER sites were obtained from the Web site
(www. ilternet.edu/member-networks) on 1 April 2011.
complete global climate and land-use models (see Lawford
et al. 1996).
Other long-term international global monitoring and eco-
logical research networks also neglect the South American
temperate forest biome. FluxNet has more than 500 meteo-
rological tower sites that operate on a continuous basis in
five continents to record carbon dioxide flux in terrestrial
ecosystems, but these sites are presently restricted to a lati-
tudinal range of 70o N through 30 S (Sundareshwar et al.
2007). The Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network
includes 27 observatories on five continents, but these sites
are also restricted to between 69 N and 38 S, notwithstand-
ing one lake observatory in Antarctica at 77 S (www.gleon.
org). The terrestrial transects established by the International
Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) are at high lati-
tudes only in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern
Hemisphere, the IGBP includes humid tropical, semiarid
tropical, and midlatitude grasslands (Koch et al. 1995, Steffen
et al. 1999), but no temperate or sub-Antarctic forests.
The recently established Chilean network of LTSER sites
will contribute to rectifying this glaring omission in global
networking. Below, we summarize the exceptional biologi-
cal and cultural attributes of the South American temperate
forest biome, which is now being integrated into ILTER.
Major biocultural attributes of the South American
temperate forest biome
The Northern and Southern Hemispheres contrast
markedly in their land:ocean ratios, generating sharp
March 2012 / Vol. 62 No. 3 * BioScience 227
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Rozzi, Ricardo, 1960-; Armesto, Juan J., 1953-; Gutiérrez, Julio R., 1953-; Massardo, Francisca; Likens, Gene E., 1935-; Anderson, Christopher B. et al. Integrating Ecology and Environmental Ethics: Earth Stewardship in the Southern End of the Americas, article, March 2012; [Reston, Virginia]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc130199/m1/2/: accessed January 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.