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 world’s 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 California’s bristlecone pine, and the araucaria or “monkey puzzle tree” that represents the world’s 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 Bank’s 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 world’s 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 Chile’s 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. Chile’s radiata pine harvest now exceeds the timber harvest from British Columbia’s coast. In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, mills have turned to Chile’s 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
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.
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