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Chile's Frontier Forests

Conserving a Global Treasure

For the most up-to-date information on this topic, please see Global Forest Watch.

Describes, for the first time, the extent and distribution of the country's intact forests while identifying priority areas for conservation and future monitoring work.

Executive Summary

Prepared through a close collaboration between Global Forest Watch Chile, a consortium of the Comit Nacional Prodefensa de la Fauna y Flora (CODEFF) and the Universidad Austral de Chile, and Global Forest Watch staff in Washington D.C., this report aims to provide a comprehensive information source on the state of Chile's native forests, which will serve as a baseline for future monitoring and reporting.

Using official data and information collected in the field by partner organizations, the report presents information on the status, location, and protection of the native forests in Chile, as well as providing an overview of the forestry sector and forest-related legislation in Chile.

The report also points to the main causes of deforestation and forest degradation. These include substitution of forestry plantation for native species, selective logging, illegal logging, and intentional forest fires.

  • About 30 percent of Chile's forests -- 4.5 million hectares -- qualify as intact forests, at least 5,000 hectares in size. About a quarter of all forest is in larger intact tracts at least 10,000 hectares in size.
  • Over 95 percent of remaining intact forest is in southern portions of the country (regions X-XII). In the north, native forests have been highly fragmented. In central portions of the country (regions VII and VIII) --where most of the logging industry is concentrated -- only a tiny percentage of native forests remain within intact tracts.
  • Much of Chile's remaining intact forest is on steep slopes or located at high altitudes. Despite their vulnerability, close to three-quarters of these forests are unprotected.
  • Native forests have undergone significant clearing and disturbance in recent decades. Over a tenth of Chile's forests are fast-growing plantations, dominated by exotic species. Much of this area was established on lands cleared of their native forest. In addition, close to 20 percent of native forest has been disturbed through logging, human-set fires and other activities.
  • Forest management regulations fail to adequately safeguard or manage native forests. Existing laws and regulations promote clearing for plantations of exotic species instead of providing incentives to promote sustainable management of natural forests.
  • Chile is home to almost one third of the world's few remaining large tracts of relatively undisturbed temperate forests. It also houses the second largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. Globally, over half of these highly productive and species-rich coastal forests have been cleared to date.

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