The Nature Conservancy launched in November 2013 a series of activities to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the historic purchase of land in southern Chile that saved one of the world’s last temperate rainforests. The purchase turned the 147,000-hectare site into the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, a thriving, large-scale, private protected area combining science-based conservation with strong community involvement in land and seascapes.
The activities being held to celebrate this 10th anniversary include photography exhibitions in public spaces, educational workshops in the nearby cities and towns of Valdivia, Corral and La Unión, and the inauguration of the Conservancy’s new office in Valdivia.
As well as celebrating the historic purchase, the Conservancy will be informing the community that this year the Valdivian Coastal Reserve was selected by Conservation International and BHP Billiton as one of the best conservation projects in the world, and was awarded a donation of US$20.4 million to ensure its long-term preservation.
The coasts and forests of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve houses unique animal species such as the small marsupial known as the mountain monkey consider a living fossil by scientists; the pudu --at 18 inches one of the world’s smallest deer--; red-legged cormorants, black browed albatrosses, one of the world’s largest woodpeckers, sea-lions, dolphins, whales and other marine species. It is also a hub of science monitoring studies, and camera traps deployed in the Reserve forests recently registered the presence of the critically endangered Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), until then believed to inhabit only two other places in Chile.
The Reserve is also home to several native plant species, including evergreen forests and endangered Alerce trees, some of them 3,000 years old. The Conservancy is carrying out pioneering forest conservation projects in the site, such as the ecological restoration of 8,400 acres of eucalyptus plantations that will be replaced with native trees, the largest reforestation effort in Chile.
"When we acquired these lands one of the most pressing urgencies was to restore the original forest because it is a type of native forest of high relevance to the world’s natural heritage, and also because it enables healthy ecosystems and regulates key natural services such as freshwater quantity and quality. To restore the original forests here it has been necessary to harvest the exotic eucalyptus plantations left here by forestry companies and replace them with native species", explains Francisco Solis, the Conservancy’s Country Representative in Chile.
Moreover, The Nature Conservancy and the Chilean government’s National Forestry Service (CONAF) presented the country’s first validated and verified forest carbon project, which is based in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. The project issue carbon credits from Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in 2014. The Conservancy’s actions to protect the old-growth coastal forests in the Reserve have avoided the release of more than 350,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking more than 67,000 passenger vehicles off U.S. roads for one full year!