The Archipiélago de Juan Fernández National Park and Juan Fernández Biosphere Reserve is situated 400 miles off the Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean. The protected area includes the islands of Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk and Santa Clara as well as all of the smaller islets in the area.
The Archipiélago de Juan Fernández National Park and Juan Fernández Biosphere Reserve is situated 650 km (400 mi) from the Chilean coast (west of Santiago) in the Pacific Ocean. The protected area includes the whole Archipelago including the islands of Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, and Santa Clara as well as all of the smaller islets in the area.
This volcanic archipelago became a national park in 1935 and a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977. Two of the islands, Alexander Selkirk and Robinson Crusoe, are named for the sailor and his fictional alter-ego.
The Juan Fernández Archipelago is volcanic in origin, with steep, rugged mountain ranges with deep ravines. There are practically no flat areas. Various types of lava are found, some 400 m (1,300 ft) in depth. Robinson Crusoe Island has a central ridge some 20 km (12.5 ft) long rising 900 m (2,950 ft) above sea level and dividing.
The arid island, its treeless 'prados' and a zone with more humid habitats, Santa Clara Island is dry and uninhabited. Alexander Selkirk Island rises to a high plateau dissected by deep ravines with forest extending up to about 700 m (2,300 ft), and a peak of 1,650 m (5,400 ft).
The vegetation of the islands is characterized by a variety of unusual growth forms with nearly 60% endemism among the vascular species. 146 species of native flowering plants have been recorded, including one endemic family (Lactoridaceae), ten endemic genera and 97 endemic species.
The Juan Fernández Archipelago has a very limited fauna, with no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. Seventeen land and sea bird species breed on the islands. The island has three endemic bird species, and two endemic subspecies.
The islands have a subtropical, temperate Mediterranean climate, but this varies depending on the island and is moderated by the influence of the cold Humboldt Current, which flows northward to the east of the islands, and the southeast trade winds. Temperatures range from 3 °C (37 °F) to 34 °C (93 °F), with an annual mean of 15.4 °C (60 °F). Higher elevations are generally cooler, with occasional frosts on Robinson Crusoe.
The Magellanic penguin breeds on Robinson Crusoe Island within the archipelago. The endemic Juan Fernandez spiny lobster (without claws) lives in the marine waters (Jasus frontalis). The Juan Fernández fur seal (Arctocephalus philippii) also lives on the islands.
Over 510 people (1999) live on Robinson Crusoe Island in the settlements of San Juan Bautista at Cumberland Bay, engaged in fishing, agriculture and cattle raising. Alexander Selkirk Island is occupied by seasonal fishing settlements at Colonia from October to May.
Around 2,000 national and 700 international tourists annually visit the Biosphere Reserve. Tourism has been encouraged and eases economic dependence on the Juan Fernandez lobster.
Erosion caused by livestock grazing is the most serious threat and difficult to control on the steep volcanic terrain. The main goals of the Juan Fernandez Biosphere Reserve are to restore altered areas and develop environmental education, protecting wild populations of native species, and training in horticultural techniques and controlling livestock numbers.