Chile's Native Forests: Globally Rare, Irreplaceable
& Disappearing Fast
14 september, 2002
Chile's native forests include the world's
second largest expanse of temperate rainforest, including the Valdivian
Rainforest dominated by the siempre verde (forever green)
forest type that is unique to Chile. More than one-quarter of the
world's remaining temperate rainforests are in Chile.
Ninety percent of the native forest-dependent
species in Chile are endemic. These include the worlds smallest
deer (the pudu) and a hummingbird that builds its nest entirely
from moss and spiderwebs. Tree species endemic to Chile include
the alerce, whose typical lifespan (over 3,000 years) is exceeded
only by Californias bristlecone pine, and the araucaria or
monkey puzzle tree that represents the worlds
oldest surviving tree species.
In 1995, Chile's Central Bank predicted that
all of the country's unprotected native forests would disappear
within 20 years if they continued to be exploited at the rate current
then. That exploitation rate has increased since the
time of the Central Banks report. And, based upon current
industry plans, the rate of native forest destruction in Chile would
increase dramatically. The Chilean wood products industry wants
to increase forestry exports from approximately $2 billion (US)
annually to approximately $4 billion (US) annually. Chilean analysts
believe this would require twice the two million hectares currently
devoted to plantations of pine and eucalyptus. Chile already has
the worlds largest expanse of radiata pine plantations. Substantial,
additional subsidies for the planned expansion of these plantations
are available under the newly extended version of Public Law 701
that will be in effect for at least 12 more years. Most analysts
believe that expansion of non-native tree farms is the biggest threat
to the survival of Chiles native forests.
Radiata pine, a tree that is not native to
Chile, is now the most abundant tree in Chile. The only purpose
for this tree in Chile is the production of wood products. Chiles
radiata pine harvest now exceeds the timber harvest from British
Columbias coast. In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, mills have
turned to Chiles radiata pine to feed demand for wood products
such as moulding and fence posts.
The U.S. leads all other countries in the
importation of solid wood products from Chile. The leading wood
products imported are moulding, millwork, door and window parts
and cutstock made from radiata pine.
Basic Facts About Chile's Native Forests
90% of the species in Chile's native forests
are found nowhere else in the world.
One quarter to one-third of the world's remaining temperate rainforests
are located in Chile.
The araucaria tree and the alerce trees are two of the rarest tree
species on the planet. The araucaria is the world's oldest surviving
tree species (200 million years). The alerce's life span (3 to 4
thousand years) is second only to California's bristlecone pine.
In one 10 year period (1985 to 1995), Chile lost 4.5 million acres
of productive native forests.
Three million acres of the tree farms in Chile are radiata pine--the
largest expanse of planted radiata pine in the world.
Every year another 300,000 acres of native forest is converted to
non-native tree farms in Chile.
90% of all wood exported from Chile comes from its non-native tree
Chile's forests may seem to be located "at
the end of the Earth" - they form a biological island in the
far reaches of the southern hemisphere, with the Pacific ocean to
the west, Antarctica to the south, the Andes mountains to the east,
and the world's dryest place, the Atacama Desert, to the north.
Due to their biological isolation over hundreds of millions of years,
Chile's forests include numerous plant and animal species unique
to Chile. These species include the ancient araucaria tree that
looks like something from the dinosaur age - and it should, since
it is! Another native of Chile's forests is the world's smallest
deer, the pudu, that looks almost extraterrestrial with its stubby
little horns and glowing eyes.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Do not buy moulding, plywood, doors, windows,
porch posts or other pine products from Chile unless they are certified
as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
If you buy any products from the following companiesBMC West,
Oregon Pacific Building Products (Orepac), Timber Products Company,
American Pine Products, Woodgrain Millwork, Windsor Mill, Kelleher,
Sierra Pacific Industries, and Weyerhaeusermake sure they
buy only FSC certified wood products from their Chilean suppliers.
Write the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and ask them to inform their 650+ members about the need to stop
the expansion of nonnative tree farms into Chile's native
Particulary avoid any non-FCS certified wood products made from
radiata pine tree farms unless the company that made the products
has promised in writing that no native forest was cleared to establish
the tree farms.
MORE INTERNET SITES
Defensores del Bosque Chileno
Ancient Forest International
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