Places We Protect

Valdivian Coastal Reserve


Valdivian Coastal Reserve An aerial view of Colun Beach in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, Los Rios, Chile. Photo credit: ©2012 Nick Hall © Nick Hall

Protecting one of the world's largest swathes of temperate rainforests in Chile.



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.

Using science, local knowledge, innovation, and a collaborative approach, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is protecting these species and securing Earth’s diversity of life for future generations.


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Explore our work in this region

Chile's Valdivian Coastal Reserve Travel to coastal Chile and the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and learn about what The Nature Conservancy is doing to help protect this rare temperate rainforest and it's coastal wildlife by working with local people to renew and expand livelihoods based on sustainable use of natural resources.

History of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve

The March 22, 2005, inauguration of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve was a major milestone toward 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 Nature 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, TNC has achieved numerous conservation successes through preservation of the nearly 150,000 acres protected by the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.

in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, Los Rios, Chile.
An aerial view of Colun Beach in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, Los Rios, Chile. © Nick Hall

The Communities Surrounding the Valdivian Coastal Reserve

The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is located in a territory with a long-standing history of human occupation, forming a culturally diverse region that includes indigenous communities such as the Mapuche, workers, and settlers. The hard legacy of past human activity is present in both the archaeological sites of the coast and in the local memory that keeps the history in the communities alive. Mapuche traditions—like the visit to Ngen Chaway—are in recovery in the communities of Huiro and Chaihuín and remain fully in force in the Mashue and Pilpilcahuín societies.

The relationship of local actors with the territory is inextricably linked to the use of natural resources, which include firewood, fruits, medicinal plants, and marine resources. The latter is a crucial source of income and food and are also equally important for social organizations and local memory. Similarly, ranching is an important activity and a substantial part of the identity of these communities. According to the 2002 national census, the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s buffer area, which covers 1,740 km², is inhabited by approximately 1,988 people. In the immediate vicinity of the Reserve are the towns of Chaihuín, Huiro, and Cadillal and a few kilometers away, the village of Huape. According to official figures, a significant part of these communities is in a situation of high vulnerability. The inhabitants of these regions are dedicated to activities like fishing, ranching, and tourism.

Hueicolla and Lamehuapi are also located in areas close to the Reserve. Hueicolla, according to the 2002 census, has about 50 inhabitants, but the population that resides there permanently is considerably less. The town of Lamehuapi has a dozen houses that are used by artisanal fishermen from the communities of Niebla and La Unión.

Our conservation work

TNC is working with local people to implement projects that ensure livelihoods and sustainability, including:

  • Chile’s first forest carbon project: Through the Verified Carbon Standard, the project avoided the release of almost 400,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
  • Ecological restoration at the landscape level: TNC plans to make the greatest long-term restoration effort in Chile by replacing an area of ​​of eucalyptus plantations with native species of approximately 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) in the next 20 years.
  • Land and sea conservation: Working with local artisanal fisheries and its partners, TNC promotes responsible fishing and support for creating marine protected areas. The conservation plan for the Reserve—designed by dozens of 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 TNC’s strategies and guidelines.

What is a Management Plan

It is a guide for The Nature Conservancy’s actions in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, developing planning elements, especially strategies and goals related to each of the Reserve’s biological, cultural and human welfare conservation targets. We used the methodology of the “Open Standards for Conservation Practice” developed in 2013 by the “Conservation Measures Partnership” Alliance of which TNC is a part of. 

What Are We Protecting: Conservation Objectives

With more than half of the Earth’s temperate rainforests already lost due to human activities, the 125,000-acre Reserve plays a critical role in protecting one of the world’s largest swathes of such forests. Those old growth forests—including endangered Alerce trees dating back more than 2,500 years—store some of the largest amounts of carbon per acre in the world, helping to mitigate climate change.

Our Partners

In addition to being a model for community conservation in Chile and Latin America, The Nature Conservancy donated almost ten thousand hectares (24,710 acres) of native forests to help create the Alerce Coastal National Park, in the region of Los Ríos, Chile. Together, these two areas protect more than 74,000 hectares (18,2857 acres) of millenary temperate and humid forests, within the framework of one of the first public-private cooperation agreements for conservation in Chile.

The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is a natural reserve of about 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) located in the Pelada Mountain Range, in the Los Ríos Region, in Chile. The Reserve is open to the public and has trails and beaches that receive many visitors in the summertime. The Reserve also has several educational and scientific projects and is one of the focal points of the region for ecological research and conservation.


of Chile.
Map of Chile. © The Nature Conservancy

What to see

TNC’s work has shown that species such as Darwin’s Fox, previously thought to exist only in the Nahuelbuta National Park and Chiloé Island, can be found in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve as well. Find out more about our discoveries here. 

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