Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chile Temperate Rainforest Named UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Two Million Hectare Area Is Home To Many Of Chile's Most Emblematic Species

(Sept. 24, 2007) The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially incorporated more than 2.17 million hectares of Chilean temperate rainforest - along with 22 other sites around the world - into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The move was made official at a meeting at the organization's Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) Bureau in Paris last week.

The area, now known as the "Southern Andes Temperate Rainforest Biosphere Reserve," spans the area from the northern border of Chile's Region X south along the Argentine border through to the Futaleufú National Reserve.

"More than 1.5 million hectares of temperate rainforest are in this area," said Luis Cárdenas, director of the region's National Forestry Service (CONAF). The area is also known for its high mountain ecosystem and invaluable water resources.

Conservation International has previously recognized this area as a conservation "hotspot", while The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The World Resources Institute have classified it as a Global 200 eco-region that should be preserved for its unique contribution to global biodiversity. In fact, according to Antonio Lara - director of the Núcleo Milenio Forescos of Chile's Universidad Austral - of the species that inhabit the temperate rainforests of South America, 35 percent of the trees and shrubs, 23 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of birds, 33 percent of mammals, 50 percent of fish, and 76 percent of amphibians are unique to this area.

The new reserve is home to many of Chile's most emblematic species, such as the alerce and araucaria trees - among the oldest trees in the world - as well as the monito del monte ("little forest monkey"), the huemul, the pudú (the world's smallest deer), and the Magellanic woodpecker (second largest in the world). All of these species are endemic to these forests.

According to MAB, Biosphere Reserves are areas that promote solutions to "reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use (...) demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity." They are nominated by their governments and remain under national jurisdiction, though they are internationally recognized.

Although the declaration of this new Biosphere Reserve does not guarantee conservation, environmental scientists such as Lara hope that it will at least reinforce a series of public and private initiatives designed to preserve Chile's native forests, including a Native Forests Law passed last month. "

Although this initiative is not binding, it is known worldwide that a UNESCO classification will act as a key prioritization instrument for the creation of future public policies which will favor sustainability," said Lara, "and give more importance to the participation of local communities in the development of plans for sustainable use of goods and services.""It will be interesting to see how Chile manages this reserve, which includes state-protected areas, private properties, and community zones," said David Tecklin, Chile's WWF director.

Here is the full article.

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