Mysterious Ecological Disasters Bombard Chile
Filed Under: World | Posted: 05/20/2009 at 2:20AM
Comments | Region: Chile
Chilean scientists are trying to make sense of a series of as-yet-unexplained ecological disasters.
Up north on a salt lake near the Atacama Desert, flocks of endangered Andean flamingoes inexplicably abandoned their nests. Over the next three months, the neglected eggs failed to hatch. 2000 chicks died.
Taken together, these events seem to point to a larger pattern of ecological disruption. Theories thrown up include overfishing, global warming, bacterial infection as well as habitat alteration. As a result of these large scale deaths, there is a growing sense that Chile has to do more to preserve its biological diversity.
Alex Muñoz, executive director of marine conservation group Oceana, pointed out Chile’s current problems regarding fishing. "Chile has very primitive legislation governing the management of its fisheries. Our marine resources are facing big problems such as overfishing, and the destruction of vulnerable marine ecosystems by industrial trawling".
"We are still waiting for an official report from the government, but we should consider the lack of sound management of fisheries if we want to work out what caused the death of the penguins and the sardines.”
Local universities are conducting their own investigations into the events and their findings are expected to be published soon. An official government report, though, is not due for many more weeks.
Julio Lamilla of the Zoology Institute at the Austral University in southern Chile points out that although everyone has their opinions, no-one has uncovered enough evidence to support any theory thus far.
The death of the flamingo chicks is probably the most unnerving of all the cases. Andean flamingoes are the rarest of all 6 species, with over half of all 40,000 individuals nesting in Chile. With the inexplicable failure of the breeding season this year, it is hoped that more chicks will be born in subsequent years to make up for the loss.