Valdivian Temperate Rainforests / Juan Fernandez Islands

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Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), Chile.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Juan Fernández Islands temperate forests; and Valdivian temperate forests.

This is one of the world's 5 major temperate rainforests and the only 1 in all of South America. Millions of years of isolation have created unique habitats and an abundant number of endemic plant species.

A trek through the Valdivian Temperate Rain Forests will take you through low coastal mountains, across a broad valley, then into the high Andes. Along the way, you'll see rare alerce and monkey puzzle trees and a wide variety of mosses, mushrooms, and lichens. You’ll also see many creatures, including Andean deer and, if you’re lucky, a primitive marsupial.

Snow-capped volcanoes and Andean peaks are the backdrop of these temperate rainforests. The Southern beech forests are 1 of only 3 of this type of forest in the world.

Some people believe that these forests were once part of the ancient Gondwanaland land mass because they more closely resemble forests in Australia and New Zealand than other forests on the South American continent.

Size:
248,000 sq. km (96,000 sq.miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Coniferous Forests

Geographic Location:
West Coast of southern South America - Argentina, Chile

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Because of the rapid elevation changes, the region is home to many species with specialized habitat requirements. This includes the world's smallest deer, the endangered pudu, South America's largest woodpecker, the Magellanic woodpecker, and 2 pine-seed eating parrots. A fascinating bird, the male Juan Fernández firecrown, an endemic species of hummingbird is found here. It has earned its name from the colors on its crown, which shift from emerald to scarlet, depending on the light.

Valdivian temperate forests are very dense, with epiphyte-laden trees reaching up to 46 meters (150 ft) in height. The most abundant trees are Antarctic beech, but many other trees are also present, including the threatened guaitecas cypress, as well as the monkey puzzle tree. These forests are also home to the extraordinarily tall Alerce trees that can reach heights of over 114 meters (375 ft) and live for more than 3,000 years!
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), Chile.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER

Featured species

The Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) is 36 - 38 cm (18 in) in length. The species is mainly black, with a white wing patch and a grey, chisel-like beak. Males have a crimson head and crest. Females have a mainly black head, but there is an area of red near the base of the bill. Juvenile Magellanic woodpeckers resemble females of the species, but have a smaller crest and are browner in color. In its range, this bird is unmistakable in appearance.

Magellanic woodpeckers inhabit mature forests, where they feed mainly on grubs and adult beetles. They breed in late fall to early winter, digging a nest cavity 5 – 15 meters above the ground. Females lay 1-4 eggs.

The most common calls of the Magellanic woodpecker are a nasal ‘keé-yew’ and ‘pi-caá’. Like many woodpecker species, their drum is a loud double knock.

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Threats
Intensive logging and conversion of forests to timber plantations are the major threats to this region. A Chilean forestry company is responsible for 1 of the most devastating examples of forest destruction: In converting rain forest to eucalyptus plantations, the company has already destroyed extensive portions of these fragile forests in violation of Chilean law.

Severe habitat destruction makes the Juan Fernández Islands a critical conservation priority. The 195 introduced and invasive plant groups are displacing local endemics; at least 75% of the remaining native plants are threatened or endangered.
WWF’s work
In November 2003, WWF partnered with The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and several Chilean environmental organizations in a land deal that helped preserve southern Chile's Valdivian Coastal Range, one of the most imperiled ecosystems on Earth.

Less than 2 years later, WWF and its partners celebrated the inauguration of the resulting Valdivian Coastal Reserve - 147,500 acres of coastal temperate rain forest in southern Chile - marking a milestone in forest conservation. Public access to the new reserve will make way for cooperation on local development and allow people and nature to prosper together for generations to come.

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