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EU Funds Chile-Argentina Temperate Rain Forest Conservation Program

The European Union (EU) is providing $3.4 million to fund a public-private initiative that aims to protect and conserve temperate rain forests in Argentina and Chile, the Santiago Times reported recently. It’s been estimated that up to 60% of Chile’s native forest has been affected by deforestation, significantly reducing the level of native vegetation.

Two of 25 Conservation International biodiversity “hotspots” worldwide, the temperate rain forests in Valdivia, Chile and the Chaquena and Chaco regions of Argentina are threatened by habitat destruction from overgrazing and invasive species, as well as development of hydroelectric dams and tourism. Conflicts over land tenure and chemical spraying are also threats.

The overarching goals of the EU-funded project are to reduce the rate of deforestation and degradation by 15 percent in Valdivia and by 20 percent in Chaco by 2015, maintain natural biodiversity, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well increase public awareness and discussion of the social impact of these issues. It is expected to be up and running by the end of this year.

Project participants will use satellite imagery and remote sensing technology to monitor some 20,000 square miles of the Valdivia rainforest in southern Chile in order to locate and identify the main sources of deforestation and habitat destruction, president of Chile’s Association of Forestry Engineers for the Native Forest (AIFBN) Sergio Donoso told the Santiago Times.

Originally spanning some 397,142 square kilometers, the Valdivia temperate rain forest now covers 119,143, or 70 percent of its original area. Some 50,745 sq. km. are protected, 44,388 in IUCN Categories I-IV, according to Conservation International. With a population density of 37 people/, it is home to a known 1,957 endemic plant species, 6 threatened endemic species of birds, 5 threatened endemic species of mammals, and 15 of amphibians.

Both countries stand to benefit from the initiative, shared experiences and the joint approach, according to Eduardo Vial, director of Chile’s National Forestry Corporation.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for managing our native forests sustainably that commits us to an unavoidable challenge. It is a challenge especially if we consider that the majority of the native forests in Chile are in the hands of small and medium proprietors who view these natural resources as a source for generating a livelihood and for social development,” he was quoted as saying.

*Photo Courtesy of Travelermania

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