Patagonia National Park (Chile)

Patagonia National Park (Chile)

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 21:10
Posted in:

Located in the transition zone between the arid steppe of Argentine Patagonia and the temperate southern beech forests of Chilean Patagonia, Patagonia National Park encompasses an array of ecosystems including grassland, riparian forest, and wetland.

Patagonia National Park

Patagonia National Park is located in the Aysén Region of southern Chile. It is situated between General Carrera Lake to the north and Cochrane Lake to the south and extends to the border with Argentina in the east.

Consisting of a total area of 304,527 ha (752,500 acres), most of the territory that currently forms Patagonia National Park integrates the former Lago Jeinimeni National Reserve, Lago Cochrane National Reserve as well as the former Patagonia Park.

The heart of the park is the Chacabuco Valley, a biologically important east-west valley that forms a pass over the Andes Mountains and is a transition zone between the Patagonian steppe grasslands of Argentine Patagonia in the east and the southern beech forests of Chilean Patagonia to the west.

History

Patagonia National Park had been created by Conservacion Patagonica, a nonprofit incorporated in California and founded in 2000 by Kris Tompkins, to protect Patagonia's wildlands and ecosystems. The area was donated to the country of Chile by the Tompkins Conservation Foundation.

Patagonia National Park stems from an agreement signed between the Chilean government and Tompkins Conservation in March 2018. It establishes the creation of five new national parks:

and the extension of three others:

Route of Parks

Patagonia National Park is part of Chile's scenic 2,800 km (1,700 mi) "Route of Parks" that stretches from Puerto Montt in the north to Cape Horn in the south.

Spanning 17 national parks, the Route of Parks of Patagonia encompasses one-third of Chile and protects over 11.8 million hectares (28 million acres).

Route of Parks map

Chile's Route of Parks map - Thompson Conservation

Flora and Fauna

Located in the transition zone between the arid steppe of Argentine Patagonia and the temperate southern beech forests of Chilean Patagonia, the National Park encompasses an array of ecosystems including grassland, riparian forest, and wetland.

The dry steppe grasslands of Argentine Patagonia are characterized by minimal rainfall, cold, dry winds, and sandy soil. The Andean Mountains block moisture from flowing west, creating this arid area region. A number of plants have been able to adapt to this harsh environment.

These grasslands support fauna such as the burrowing owl, gray fox, tuco-tuco, mara, armadillos, and predators such as the puma, along with various eagle and hawk species.

A wide range of animals thrives in the more habitable outskirts of the desert and around ephemeral lakes formed from the Andes' runoff, where trees and more nutritious aqueous grasses can grow.

Moving west and climbing the vertical gradient of the Andes Mountains, the flora and fauna change notably. The landscape begins to transform into forests, which consist mostly of three species of the southern beech (Nothofagus) genus: lenga, ñire, and coihue.

Here, rainfall can be very high, generating dense forests. These forests host 370 vascular plant genera, which are vital to the survival of the surrounding fauna. Some significant mammals include the endangered huemul deer, puma, red fox, and various species of bats.

The forests also contain a high diversity of avifauna including the Andean condor, Magellanic woodpecker, spectacled duck, black-necked swan, pygmy owl, black-faced ibis, Chilean flamingo, Austral negrito, Southern lapwing, along with a range of amphibians and reptiles.

Throughout Patagonia, the guanaco, a large camelid that is a wild relative of the llama, is the most abundant herbivore. It feeds on 75% of all plant species in the Patagonian steppe.

The guanaco acts as a keystone species: it prevents the domination of grass species, acts as a disperser and fertilizes, and has high reproductive rates, providing food for local carnivores, especially pumas.

Although the park lies on the eastern side of the Andes, its glacier-fed streams and rivers run toward the Pacific Ocean. Their turquoise blue water is home to substantial populations of native fish such as perch (Percichthys trucha), pejerrey patagonico (Odontesthes hatcheri), and puyen (Galaxias maculatus).

Tompkins Conservation - Patagonia National Park