Chile's Valdivian Coastal Reserve: Saving Ancient Forests
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is part of an ancient temperate rainforest rising from Chile’s southern coastline. This vast stretch of coastal forest is a remnant of millennia past — when it was connected to the forests of New Zealand and Australia. In fact, some species are more closely related to species from those distant places rather than the Americas. During the last Ice Age, this coastal range served as a freeze-free refuge for a multitude of species found nowhere else on Earth.
Among these unique species are two of the planet’s longest living tree species. Olivillo trees, which can live up to 400 years, survive in large stands only on the western slopes of this range, and alerce trees, which resemble North American giant sequoias, have life spans of up to 4,000 years.
These forests also harbor an incredible wealth of wildlife including one of the world’s largest woodpeckers; the world’s smallest deer; a small tree dwelling marsupial (‘mountain monkey’) considered by scientists to be a "living fossil;" at least 58 bird species; and several rare carnivores, such as the southern river otter.
The March 22, 2005 inauguration of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve was a major milestone towards preserving this temperate rainforest. The property where the Valdivian Coastal Reserve now stands was first acquired in late 2003 at public auction following the bankruptcy of a forestry company.
Since then, the Conservancy has been managing the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and working closely with neighboring fishing villages and indigenous communities to maintain traditional land uses and encourage compatible local economic development as part of the Reserve’s overall conservation strategy.
Working with local partners, the Conservancy has achieved numerous conservation successes through preservation of the nearly 150,000 acres protected by the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
Today, the Reserve is:
- A unique nature preserve ensuring the protection of native forests and numerous endemic species. The temperate rainforest of the Valdivian Coastal Range extends for one million acres, but before the creation of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, less than 2.4% was protected. Today, the Reserve helps protect an additional 12% of this rare temperate rainforest. The Reserve is protected by numerous, well-qualified personnel committed to its conservation: park guards secure, maintain and inform visitors about the Reserve and a fire brigade is on-hand to put out any local wildfires and protect the forests and neighboring communities.
- A stunning natural environment inviting to both tourists and locals. The Conservancy has worked with partners to make the Reserve both accessible and informative to all visitors. Recent additions and upgrades include new trails, signposts, picnic areas, and parking lots.
- The site of Chile’s first REDD (Reduced Emissons from Deforestation and Degredation)program developed to highlight the important role of forests in climate change mitigation, and to leverage the financial support of voluntary carbon market participants in order to help ensure the Reserve’s long term protection. The Conservancy’s purchase of the property in 2003 prevented ongoing legal conversion of native rainforest to non-native exotic timber plantations for production of wood pulp, and prevented the completion of a coastal highway that was under construction within the Reserve. These actions to stop deforestation and conversion of forests to alternate uses have resulted in third-party verified greenhouse gas emissions reductions of over 440,000 net metric tons carbon dioxide. The Conservancy developed the program using rigorous scientific methodologies authorized by the globally-recognized carbon standard, the Verified Carbon Standard. Third-party validation of the program and verification of the emissions reductions was completed in 2013, and registration of the program and carbon offsets on the Markit Environmental Registry was completed in 2014.
- A resource for sustainable development projects undertaken by local community groups.A $300,000 fund created by the Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations Development Program is supporting sustainable beekeeping, production of natural herbal teas , fishing, and sustainable tree harvesting businesses.
- A research center working to streamline conservation work in the area. The conservation plan for the Reserve—designed by dozens scientists, academics, members of the local communities, government agencies and non-profit organizations—identifies conservation priorities, monitors progress, and recommends strategies for the Reserve’s continued, effective protection. Research methodology and conservation planning were developed according to the Conservancy’s strategies and guidelines.
- An important native forest restoration pilot site, where different methodologies for removing non-native eucalyptus trees are being tested by scientists, so that up to 4,400 acres of the Reserve that currently harbor this exotic tree