Study area and land cover types in the Mediterranean Chile based on CONAF-CONAMA-BIRF (2014).

Biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at unprecedented rates because of human activities. Activities to address this decline must be targeted through the adoption and implementation of effective local, national and international policies. To this end, science needs to provide credible information about spatial and temporal changes in ecosystem services provision and repercussions for human well-being. Methods to transparently communicate this information to decision makers are also required. We address these challenges by providing a comprehensive platform to strengthen the dialogue between ecosystem services science and decision making.

We have applied this research in Mediterranean Chile which is globally recognised biodiversity hotspot with more than 1,600 endemic species with their ecosystems under major threats by human activities (agricultural, mining and urban expansion among others) and climate change. This is an ideal region to study biodiversity and ecosystem services as this region concentrates most of the Chilean human population with increasing demand on ecosystem services.

Example Projects

Scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change

Scenarios provide a platform to explore the future provision of ecosystem services under global change. Local experts from Central Chile identified climate change, urbanization, and fire as key drivers of change. Scenarios depicting plausible future trajectories of change were developed to assess the combined impacts on carbon storage, wine production, and scenic beauty for the year 2050. Across the region, the action of drivers reduced the total amount of carbon storage (by 85%) and wine production (by 52%) compared to a baseline scenario, with minor changes incurred for scenic beauty. Carbon storage and wine production declined by 90% and scenic beauty by 28% when the impacts of changed fire regimes were also accounted for. The cumulative impacts of climate change and urbanization are likely to place substantial pressures on ecosystem services in Central Chile by mid-century revealing the need for stronger planning regulations to manage land-use change.

Distributional equity of access to cultural ecosystem services: protected areas in Mediterranean Chile

Experiences with nature through visits to protected areas have the potential to improve human well-being. Nevertheless the distribution of nature visitation benefits is likely to vary between communities. We used geo-tagged photos from social media to develop a novel database of visits to protected areas at a regional scale in Chile. We assessed the equity of the distribution of visits to protected areas among communities using the home location of visitors and explored socioeconomic variables driven inequity. Landscape attributes of the protected areas were tested to identify social preferences for visitation. This approach revealed that the distribution of nature visits benefits is very unequal in this region. People with higher income visit protected areas more and tend to travel further away. Larger protected areas and those that are more diverse have a greater number of visits. Our study has important policy implications. By providing information on the current spatial flows of people to protected areas, these results can inform discussion or removing obstacles of access to nature visits benefits in Chile in the future.


Examples of the distribution of visitors’ home locations for four protected areas in the Chilean Mediterranean region: A) National Park “La Campana”, B) Natural Monument “El Morado”, C) Natural Reserve “Altos de Lircay”, and D) Natural Reserve “Malalcahuello”.


Kerrie Wilson, Maria Jose Martinez HarmsHugh PossinghamJonathan Rhodes, Brett BryanPatricia BalvaneraSpencer Wood,  Patricio Pliscoff, Eugenio Figueroa, Micheli Duarte de Paula Costa, Cynnamon Dobbs, Elizabeth Law


We are working closely with collaborators from the University of Chile, Catholic University of Chile, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University and CSIRO.


Ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation


*Martinez-Harms, M. J., Bryan, B. A., Wood, S.A., Fisher, D.M., Law, E., Rhodes, J., Dobbs, C., Biggs, D. and Wilson, K.A. 2018. Inequality in access to cultural ecosystem services from protected areas in the Chilean biodiversity hotspot. Science of the Total Environment. 636(15): 1128-1138

Martinez-Harms, M. J., B. A. Bryan, E. Figueroa, P. Pliscoff, R.K. Runting and K. A. Wilson. 2017. Scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change. Ecosystem Services. 25: 56-68.

Martinez-Harms, M. J., Bryan, B. A., Balvanera, P., Law, E. A., Rhodes, J, Possingham, H. P., and Wilson, K. A. Making decisions for managing ecosystem services. 2015. Biological Conservation. 184: 229-238.