This town in Chile's far south will host the first research center specializing in ecological singularities and sustainable tourism at such high latitudes, with President Michelle Bachelet saying it will "boost Chilean scientific work."
The Cape Horn Center "will contribute to the development of socio-ecological science, scientifically ethical education and conservation through tourism in the Cape Horn Biosphere World Reserve," Ricardo Rozzi, a researcher who has spearheaded efforts to build the facility, said.
The building, located on a bluff with a view of the Beagle Channel, will have a visitor center, an auditorium with 170 seats, educational facilities and a laboratory.
With government funding, the center will increase technical capabilities in Magallanes province - in the heart of the Chilean region closest to Antarctica - in the short term and will gradually add tourism jobs connected to scientific research.
"This facility will enable activities in different areas within an interactive approach between the local community and visitors," Bachelet said Sunday at the opening in Puerto Williams of the 2015 Congress of the International Association of Biology.
The initiative, coordinated in Chile by the University of Magallanes and the Millennium Scientific Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity, and in the United States by the University of Texas, is now seeking designs.
Project director Rodrigo Vera told Efe that "construction is expected to begin in early 2016 and to be completed in the first quarter of 2017."
The Cape Horn Biosphere World Reserve, which extends from Seno Almirantazgo to the south through the Darwin Ridge, the Beagle Channel, Navarino Island and the Cape Horn archipelago, protects sea and land ecosystems on the southern tip of the Americas, where more than 1,000 species of hepaticas, moss and lichens are found.
One of the world's last pristine areas, the reserve provides a unique environment to study the impact of climate change.
"It is important to have pristine areas," the director of the Ecology and Biodiversity Institute, Mary Kalin Arroyo, told Efe.
"Without them, data collected on climate change and its impact on biodiversity could not be distinguished from changes caused by human activity," Arroyo, a winner of the Natural Sciences National Award, said.