Linking Patagonia and the World via Tourism and Seabirds

ABSTRACT. Human-wildlife dynamics exhibit novel characteristics in the Anthropocene, given the unprecedented degree of globalization that has increased the linkages between habitats and people across space and time. This is largely caused by unprecedented transnational mobility and migration, international labor and resource markets and trade. Understanding the relationship between humans and wildlife and their associated telecoupling processes helps to promote better management practices and governance for reconciling socio-economic and conservation interests. In this study, we review human-seabird interactions in the iconic Beagle Channel (BC) in southern Patagonia. Then, we adapted and employed the coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) approach and telecoupling framework to integrate disparate social and biological information and obtain a more holistic understanding of current human-seabird dynamics and trends in the BC. While our assessment includes the temporal scale of human-seabird relationships, we centered the CHANS and telecoupling analysis on the modern seabird-tourism interaction as a methodological delimitation of the system i) to permit greater understanding of ongoing conservation research and policy efforts and ii) to identify gaps in our knowledge and potentially unforeseen conservation threats. For this reason, we focused on the Argentine portion of the channel, where tourism is most heavily developed. Our synthesis in the BC telecoupled CHANS allowed us to recognize the strong historical local-to-global interactions between both human and natural subsystems and the sharp increase in distance telecoupling during the 20th century due to human mobility and tourism. Despite this globalizing trend in connecting the BC to distance place, ironically we found few human subsystem linkages between Argentina and Chile, despite both countries sharing political sovereignty over the channel. Recognizing and studying the telecouplings identified in this study could help multi-lateral efforts to incorporate the spillover systems (especially with Chile) and sending systems (i.e. transnational tourists’ countries of origin) into existing regional policies and global alternative (e.g., ecosystem services payment). Integrating these scales into our study and management of the BC would help ensure that humans continue to enjoy this unique and charismatic wildlife and at the same time reinforce responsible tourism as a local-global strategy for sustainable development and global conservation.