The Senda Darwin Biological Station (EBSD)

The Senda Darwin Biological Station (EBSD) was named in honor of the British naturalist Charles Darwin, who during his journey in 1834 through the Chiloé archipelago passed through the area where the Station is now located. It was founded in 1996 by a group of researchers led by Juan Armesto and Mary Wilson, and today is managed by the Senda Darwin Foundation with the support of the IEB. It also forms part of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile’s network of regional centers. The Senda Darwin Biological Station is a privately owned protected area covering 113 hectares and encompassing grassland, matorral and temperate rainforest, and serves as a base for scientific research, environmental education and conservation. In the words of Charles Darwin, this tangled rainforest dominated a large part of the landscape of Chiloé some 200 years ago. Senda Darwin is currently home to the two most important and biologically diverse types of native evergreen rainforest: The Valdivian forest and the North Patagonian forest, but it also contains grassland, peatlands, matorral, tepual forests, Pilgerodendron cypress forests and rivers, representing the diverse range of the Chiloé archipelago’s continental ecosystems. Common native animals and plants can be seen and studied here, such as the monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides), Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), Darwin’s fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), the coigüe de Chiloé (Nothofagus nitida) and beautiful red flowering climbers such as the Chilean pitcher flower (Sarmienta scandens), the estrellita (Asteranthera ovata) and the Chilean mitre flower (Mitraria coccinea).

Location: Chiloé Island, District of Ancud, Los Lagos Region.
Facilities: accommodation, laboratory, “Beagle” classroom and visitor center, nature trails, agroecology demonstration unit, greenhouse and nursery.
Accommodation capacity: 25 people
Supervisor: Aline Hodges and Paula Gatica
For visits, contact:

Main studies and activities

Exclusión de Lluvia (Rain Exclusion)

Person in charge: Juan Armesto

For over 20 years the EBSD has been engaged in cutting-edge scientific research into biodiversity and ecosystem processes, and many of these projects run for longer than the typical three years that the majority of ecological studies last in Chile. Experiments of this type are known as long-term ecological studies, and one example is the Estudio Experimental de Cambio Climático (Experimental Climate Change Study) or Experimento de Exclusión de Lluvia (Rain Exclusion Experiment). It was launched in 2007, and seeks to determine the possible impact of global climate change on the structure of forest ecosystems. For example, the climatic change models for the South of Chile predict a reduction of approximately 30% in summer rainfall, and with this in mind, the EBSD has created an experiment which simulates a reduction of between 20 and 30% in spring-summer rainfall over two patches of 70 to 90-year-old secondary forest. The findings of this study will help us to gauge the resilience of ecosystem processes (such as, for example, nutrient recycling and tree growth) in the face of climate change.

Carbono en el bosque (Carbon in the forest)

Person in charge: Jorge Perez

Ancient or primary forests store vast quantities of carbon in their biomass, but their contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction is uncertain. At Senda Darwin, a program of continuous monitoring of greenhouse gas exchange is being conducted using the eddy covariance technique in order to establish whether these forest systems are carbon sources or sinks (i.e. whether they release or capture carbon). A 42-meter tower was installed to conduct continuous short-term and long-term measurement of flows of carbon, methane and water vapor. The EBSD is a member of FLUXNET, a global network for analysis of carbon exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere, spanning five continents ranging between latitudes 70°N and 41°S.

Guided visits and workshops

Person in charge: Scarlett Barra

One of the EBSD’s priorities is establishing effective lines of communication with the local community, and as part of this effort, the center hosts a program of guided visits and ecology workshops for the public. Around 200 school children and other local and foreign visitors follow the station’s “Pichihuillilemu” nature trail each year, learning about the flora, fauna and ecology of the forests of Chiloé and the scientific activities of researchers at the biological station. Visitors can also take part in workshops on the application of scientific knowledge to the propagation of native species and sustainable management of native forest, led by Juan Vidal in the nursery, and workshops on agroecology in the station’s demonstration unit.