Cape Horn and the Falklands

Avenue of the Glaciers at the End of the World; Goldman Sachs Gets in Park Business; Tame Wolf Noted by Darwin Goes Extinct

Map boundaries: 50 to 60 degrees South; 56 to 70 degrees West

Countries: Argentina (Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego, Burdwood Bank), Chile (Region XII-Magallanes), United Kingdom (Falklands overseas territory)


At the southern tip of South America, the Patagonian grasslands meet the southern beech forests. Santa Cruz province of Argentina and the northern and eastern parts of Tierra del Fuego are covered by Patagonian grassland and semiarid vegetation. Tierra del Fuego was given its name by Fernando de Magellan, who referred to the fires lit by Indians along the coast of the Straight of Magellan. The native people’s name for Tierra del Fuego was Karukinka, which is the name of a new natural park managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and donated by Goldman Sachs.

The east-west Beagle Channel, on the border between Argentina and Chile, and known as the Avenue of the Glaciers, is noted for sea mammals and birds. South of the Beagle Channel are the Chilean Islands Navarino and Hoste. Navarino is the site of an ethnobotanical park and a center for research and education. Hoste, most of which is part of Alberto de Agostini National Park, has the southernmost trees on Earth.

To the south of Hoste are three other island groups, including Ildefenso, Wallaston (site of Cape Horn), and Diego Ramirez, the southernmost Chilean island group. Offshore to the east of Tierra del Fuego is Staten Island, the end of the Andes Mountain chain. To the east of Staten is Burdwood Bank, an important marine ecosystem preserve designated by Argentina.

To the north of Burdwood are the Falkland Islands, consisting of two larger islands and over 700 smaller islands. West Falkland is rugged and more mountainous than East Falkland, although East Falkland has the highest peak. The Falklands are hilly and covered with low grasses and scrubby vegetation; there are no native trees. The mountains have cushion plant communities.

The Falkland Islands have high concentrations of seabirds, oystercatchers, steamer ducks, rockhopper penguins, and black-browed albatrosses. In addition, marine mammals such as elephant seals and sea lions may be seen. The Falklands wolf was noted by Darwin in the Voyage of the Beagle. He noted that gauchos kill them by offering a piece of meat in one hand and sticking them with a knife in the other. The tameness is a common characteristic of island endemics, and no doubt contributed to the extinction of the Falkland wolf by 1876. Although Darwin thought the wolf was a fox, more recent DNA research indicates that the wolf is related to the maned wolf of the South American savannas, despite its short legs and jaws designed for grabbing and shaking large prey, such as seals and penguins.

Ecoregions and Provinces/Political Subdivisions (Locations noted on attached map)

NT 402, Magellanic subpolar forests. Forests of Nothofagus cover mountains and fjords between icefields. Forests are deciduous to the north of the Beagle channel in Argentina and Chile and evergreen to the south in Chile. Found in Region XII-Magallanes, Chile, and Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina.

Temperate Grasslands, Savannas and Shrublands

NT 804. Patagonian grasslands. Tundra grasslands, meadows, deciduous thickets, swamp forests , low mountains, mesas, and plains. Coiron grass and Senecio are common. Grass-stepppe and shrub vegetation. Found in Region XII-Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego and Santa Cruz provinces, Argentina; and Falkland Islands.

NT 805. Patagonian steppe. Cold desert scrub with thich patches of shrubs and scattered grasses. Found in Santa Cruz province of Argentina. Low-lying mountains, plateaus, and plains with drought-adapted vegetation. Shrubs of Acantholippia, Benthamiella; cushion plants.

Marine Ecoregions of the World (locations noted on attached map)

Temperate South America Realm, Magellanic Province

185. Patagonian Shelf. Approximately 32 species of cetaceans, 8 species of pinnepeds, and 450 species of fish in the Argentine Sea.

186. Malvinas/Falklands. Includes Burdwood Bank, where commercial fishing was banned in 2008.

187. Channels and Fjords of Southern Chile

Freshwater Ecoregions of the World

South America Region, Temperate Coastal Rivers

348. Patagonia

Ramsar Sites (Locations noted on attached map)

Bahia Lomas, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. Ecoregion 804.

Bertha’s Beach, East Falkland. Ecoregion 804. Long sand beach with dunes hosts migratory birds from Canadian Arctic; dolphins may be seen. Ecoregion 804.

Coastal Reserve (Reserva Costa Atlantica de Tierra del Fuego), Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Largest concentration of migratory shorebirds in South America. Ecoregion 804.

Sea Lion Island, off East Falkland. A rat-free island with native songbird breeding areas and burrowing petrels. Ecoregion 804.

Biosphere Reserves (Locations noted on attached map)

Cape Horn, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. The world’s southernmost forested ecosystem; includes Cape Horn National Park, ethnobotanical park at Omora, and Alberto de Agostino National Park. The Omora Ethnobotanical Park on Navarina Island serves and the research and education center. A five-day hiking circuit is possible on Navarino Island. Alberto de Agostino National Park contains the avenue of the glaciers in the Darwin Mountains along the Beagle Channel. Ecoregion 402.

Other points of interest (sites noted on attached map)

Arch Island, Natural Arch, Sea Dog, Albemarle Rock, and Tusssac Island Nature Reserves, West Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

Beagle Channel, Argentina and Chile. Bordered by deciduous and evergreen beech forests (Nothofagus), this is a waterfowl and penguin breeding area noted for cormorants, oystercatchers, and geese. Ecoregion 402.

Beauchene Island Nature Reserve, south of Falkland Islands. Southernmost Falkland Island hosts black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguin nesting; endemic Cobb’s wren. Ecoregion 804.

Beaver Island, off West Falkland. West-facing sheer cliffs host breeding penguins and giant petrels off West Falkland. Sheer cliffs and seasonal pools on island free of introduced mammalian predators hosts nesting striated caracaras, blackbrowed albatross and sooty shearwater. Ecoregion 804.

Bleaker Islands Sanctuary, off East Falkland. Open heathland with ponds; coastal kelp beds. Falkland grass wren. Ecoregion 804.

Bull Point, East Falkland. Heath, dunes, and seasonal pools hosts high density of penguins and geese, Falkland steamer duck, ruddy-headed goose, and white-rumped sandpiper. Ecoregion 804.

Burdwood Bank, off Argentina. In 2008, Argentina declared the area a reserve and banned all commercial fishing. The area is believed to be an important feeding ground for sea lions, penguins, and albatross and a fish nursery for blue whiting and Fuegan sardines. Ecoregion MEOW 186.

Cape Virgenes Provincial Reserve, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Large penguin rookery. Ecoregion 804 and MEOW 185.

Cochon Island Nature Reserve, off East Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

Condor Estancia, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Bunchgrass vegetation harbors ruddy-headed goose and flamingos. Ecoregion 804.

Cormoran Islands Scientific Use Area and Leones Island Area of Limited Use, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Ecoregion 805.

Coyle River Estuary, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Shrub-steppe vegetation harbors rheas while coastal areas provide nesting areas for Magellanic penguins, hooded grebe, southern giant petrel, southern flamingo and Magellanic plover. Ecoregion 805.

Deseada Island Area of Scientific Use, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Ecoregions 804 and 805.

Diego Ramirez Islands, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. Chilean protected area at southernmost point of South America; nesting area for albatrosses, penguins and southern giant-petrel. Ecoregion 402.

Cape Dolphin Sanctuary, East Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

East Bay, the Narrows, Middle Island, Dunbar Island, and Low Island Sanctuaries, West Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

Elephant Cays, Falkland Islands. Tussock-covered islands in sound between East and West Falkland. World’s most important breeding site of southern giant petrels. Ecoregion 804.

Fueguino Volcano, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. Lava domes on Cook Island. Ecoregion 402.

Gallegos River Estuary, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. An area with a tidal range of 13 meters. The most important wintering site of Magellanic plover and nearactic migrating birds. Ecoregions 804 and 805.

Grand River, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Fly-fishing area with sheep ranches. Ecoregion 804.

Haberton Ranch, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Private ranch offers tours. Ecoregion 402.

Hope Harbour and Hummock Islands, West Falkland. Hope Harbour is a mountainous site harboring colonies of black-browed albatross and gentoo penguins. Hummock Islands offshore harbor native passerine birds. Ecoregion 804.

Jason Islands Nature Reserves, off West Falkland. Reserves are Elephant Jason, Flat Jason, the Fridays, Jason East Cay, Jason West Cay, South Jason, the Twins, and White Rock. Cliffs and craggy peaks with dense native tussock vegetation on eight islands harbor nesting colonial seabirds, including striated caracara. Ecoregion 804.

Karukinka Natural Park, Region XII-Magellanes, Chile. A large natural landscale donated by Goldman Sachs to the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2004, is an experiment in natural landscape conservation. Area harbors guanaco and Magellanic woodpecker. Ecoregion 402.

Keppel Island, off West Falkland. First island settled in Falklands, dating to 1855. Island harbors Falkland grass wrens, Magellanic penguin burrows, and flocks of geese. Ecoregion 804.

Kidney Islands Nature Reserve, off East Falkland. Endemic birds in native tussock vegetation. Ecoregion 804.

Laguna del Diablo Nature Recreative Reserve, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Ecoregion 402.

La Martial Nature Protected Area, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. The Martial Mountains rise behind Ushuaia, and are accessible by trail from the town. Ecoregion 402.

Lively Islands, East Falkland. Low-lying islands with estensive off-shore kelp beds. The largest rat-free island in the Falklands harbors native songbirds. Ecoregion 804 and MEOW 186.

Mitre Peninsula, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. A transition area between deciduous and evergreen beech forests, noted for cormorants and geese. Ecoregion 402.

Monte Leon National Park, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Coastal park with penguins, sea lions, guanacas, and pumas. A trail to La Olla reveals a tidal cave. The coastline is arid, with steppe vegetation. Offshore sea stacks. Ecoregion 805 and MEOW 185.

Moss Side Sanctuary, East Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

New Islands Sanctuary, off West Falkland. Cliff-lined islands harbor colonial seabird nesting areas, noted for Falkland skuas and black-browed albatross; the most important breeding ground for thin-billed prion. Ecoregion 804.

North Fur Nature Reserve, off West Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

Pali Aike National Park, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. Rugged volcanic steppe with hundreds of craters, spatter cones, caves and lava rocks. The last eruption was 5500 BC. Ecoregion 804.

Passage Islands, off West Falklands. A rat-free area with native songbird breeding. Ecoregion 804.

Pebble Islands, off West Falkland. A large wetland area harbors black-necked swans. Ecoregion 804.

Saunders Island, off West Falkland. Steep cliffs provide habitat for black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguins. Ecoregion 804.

Seal Bay, East Falkland. Geese congregate on an inland pond while offshore coasts are dotted with sea stacks. Ecoregion 804.

Speedwell Island, George, and Barren Islands, off East Falkland. Rat-free islands with native songbirds, southern giant petrels. Ecoregion 804.

Stanley Common and Cape Pembroke Peninsula Sanctuary, East Falkland. Ecoregion 804.

Staten Island Provincial Touristic, Historic, and Ecological Reserve, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Dense low elevation forest and coastal grasslands at southernmost tip of Andes, noted for rockhopper penguins and birds of prey. Ecoregion 402.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina and Corazon Provincial Reserve, Tierra del Fuego province, Argentina. Colonies of sea lions on Beagle Channel on Lobos Island and Isla de los Pajaros. Also penguins, isolated glacial valleys, lakes, and forests. Fagnano Lake is surrounded by beech (Nothofagus) forests, peat bogs, and glaciers. Lake Roca flows into the turbulent River Lapataia and out into the bay. Large flooded areas of peat bog. Subarctic forests of beech (lenga) and evergreen coihue. Ecoregion 402 and MEOW 187.

Volunteer and Cow Bay Sanctuary, East Falkland. A lowland peninsula with kelp beds offshore. The largest king penguin area in the Falklands. Ecoregion 804.

West Point Islands, off West Falkland. Devil’s Nose is a cliff with black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguins. Ecoregion 804.

Yendegaia Ranch, Region XII-Magallanes, Chile. Native forest, glaciers, and waterfront purchased in 1998 by Foundacion Yendegaia, in cooperation with the Conservation Land Trust. Ecoregion 402.


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