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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Patagonian forests, the home for its cryptids

 

In this post of my 2010 Biodiversity series on Patagonia I will mention the forest, Patagonia's amazingly beautiful woods. it is the place where Patagonian dwarves, ogres, trolls, and most of its lake creatures live. It is however an endangered habitat.

Unique forests

The Patagonian forests are one of the World’s five most important temperate forests and it is the only one in South America.

Nearly one third of the World’s “untouched” temperate forest is in Patagonia. [1]

It is a unique forest because it is totally isolated from the other South American temperate forests and jungles by at least 1,500 km of arid terrain (I have called this the arid gap).

This isolation is comparable to that of an island. There is no exchange between the Patagonian forest and other South American forests.

For this reason, most of its species are endemic (they are only found there and nowhere else in the world), relict of an era when they belonged to a larger forested area.

It extends along both sides of the Andes, from 35°S to 56°S, and from the Pacific Ocean to the western border of the Patagonian steppe. The forest is a long and narrow band running along the Chilean-Argentine border.

Its surface is about 7.2 million hectares in Chile and another 2.6 million in Argentina, that is 9.8 million hectares or 98,000 km2 (38,000 sq. mi.), which may seem small, but is actually larger than Portugal or Austria.

However, since the arrival of Europeans, the forests have been shrinking constantly. The part that has been worst hit, is in Chile, north of Chiloé Island and south of the Bio-Bio river. It is a densely populated area and forests have been cut to turn the area into fields for grazing and farm land.

Patagonia Forest coverage
Current and Historic (pre-1550 AD) Forest Coverage in Patagonia .
Copyright © 2010 by Austin Whittall. [3]

Threats

Introduction of foreign species such as Ponderosa Pine (pinus ponderosa), Oregon Pine ( Pseudotsuga menziesii ) and Murrayana Pine (pinus contorta) which grow faster and displace the local slower growing trees is a serious threat to the native species.

A study has shown that the Murrayana pine expands along the steppe while the Oregon pine is displacing the arid woodlands dominated by a native conifer “Ciprés” (Austrocedrus chilensis). [2]

In Chile the paper and pulp industry has promoted the planting of these pines, while in Argentina their hardiness have led to them being planted along the steppe, where there is less rainfall. They can also be found in urban and suburban areas surrounding the Andean towns, where they propagate quickly.

Last but not least, sawmills have reduced forests outside of the protected areas within Patagonia.

One of these logging projects, Trillium, in Tierra del Fuego, was to cut down a very large area of Lenga forest. The Chilean Supreme Court ended it in 1997 but it refused to die [4]. For full details on this unsustainable project read about it at this (external link) site [5].

The company they established in Argentina, Lenga Patagonia S.A., still appears as a member of the Asociación Forestal Argentina (Argentine Forestry Association) [6] but its web domain has lapsed and belongs to someone else.

The story ends well (in Chile): Goldman Sachs acquired Trillium in 2002 and after taking into account the public opinion's opposition to the logging project, donated it to Wildlife Conservation Society, an NGO based in New York, US. I am not sure about what happened to Trillium's Argentine affiliate.

Fortunately, most of the National Parks in both countries protect the forested areas as can be seen in the following map (blue shade indicates National Parks).

Patagonian National Parks
Patagonia National Parks . Copyright © 2010 by Austin Whittall.

Bibliography.

[1] Greenpeace. (2004). Patagonia Chilena. ¿Crónica de una muerte anunciada? Santiago. Online. pp. 14.
[2] Rusch, Verónica, Schilter, Tomá and Ghersa, Claudio, (2006) Invasión de coníferas forestales en áreas de estepa y bosques de ciprés de la cordillera en la Región Andino Patagónica. Ecol. austral v.16 n.2 Córdoba jul./dic. 2006.
[3] The map showing current and historical distribution of the Patagonian Forest is a composite. I took information from several sources and blended them into the map:
   - Enciclopedia de la Flora Chilena. Matorral y Bosque Patagónico.
   - Resumen Vision para la biodiversidad de la ecorregion de los bosques templados lluviosos de Chile y Argentina. Doc. No. 1. WWF Chile.
   - WWF. A lovely map which I have not been able to locate after I downloaded it over a year ago. Visit WWF Chile Online. Their map is the part above the red line on my map.
[4] Online.
[5] Chilean Forest Preservation and the Project River Condor.
[6] Quienes la Integran. Asociacion Forestal Argentina.




Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia


2010 International Year of Biodiversity
 
Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©
 

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