|Threats Environmental education
Our understanding of the conservation concept
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve contains approximately 36.5 kilometers of coastline, about half of which is beach, while the rest consists of forested cliffs, as well as thousands of hectares of temperate rainforest, five river basins and numerous endemic flora and fauna species.
The Reserve is divided into six sections: the locality of Chaihuín (from Chaihue: weaving baskets or strainers with voqui), where the administration of the Reserve is located, the localities of Carimahuida (green mountain), Lahual (larch wood), Pangui (puma) and the coastal areas of Hueicolla (from Hueyco: little lake) and Colún (colored).
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the lands and waters on which life depends.
This implies direct action in different ecosystems, from sea to forest, protecting the waters and lands vital to the survival of animals and plants, and thus, for present and future generations.
To us, however, preserving nature does not mean putting barriers around places to keep them pristine and untouched, we protect places and resources with the idea to not only benefit flora and fauna, but also people.
The Nature Conservancy is working with fishermen to achieve sustainable extraction, to protect the jobs related with this activity, and also connects with local indigenous communities to protect natural areas, while preserving their ancestral traditions and customs.
The objective of the Nature Conservancy for the Valdivian Coastal Reserve is to “Preserve biological and cultural diversity in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, including its coastline and buffer zones”.
In order to achieve this goal, The Nature Conservancy has defined particular conservation objects, based on which specific objectives and actions are to be implemented for the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage.
We have established nine conservation objects for the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. These include the Larch forest, the Coastal Olivillo forest, the evergreen forest, freshwater- and estuarine ecosystems, dunes and sandy beaches, the rocky coast, Darwin's Fox, Güiña and Pudú, forest amphibians and the cultural heritage of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
1 - Larch forest
The Coastal Larch (Alerce - Fitzroya cupressoides) is the second most long-lived tree in the world and currently in danger of extinction.
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve contains approximately 3.098 hectares of this type of forest, which is dangerously degraded as a result of illegal exploitation and unsafe practices (forest fire, vegetation removal and deep soil alteration).
This ecosystem is important not only because of the presence of the Larch, but also because of the associated cultural heritage.
This forest exists in five subtypes: pure Larch, mixed Larch, marginal Larch, altered Larch and burnt Larch. In the Reserve, the Larch forest is either pure or mixed with Coigüe de Magallanes (Nothofagus betuloides).
The protected proportion of these valuable forests is only 13,9%, nationwide. If we take the continental coastal Larch forests into account, only 0,6% is under protection in zones of the National System of Protected Wildlife Areas, which is focused exclusively on the Pelada Mountain Range.
2 - Evergreen forest
The southern temperate evergreen forest is located roughly between 38 and 47 degrees south, in the Andes- and Coastal Mountain Ranges.
It is a forest with the largest territorial expansion in Chile (CONAF, 2011) and dominates the Reserve, with a surface totaling approximately 39.667 hectares.
Here, the ecosystem is home to a large number of endemic species, including birds such as the black- or Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus), Chucao (Scelorchilus rubecula) and Des Mur's Wiretail (Sylviorthorhynchus desmursii), among many others.
This conservation object also provides important ecosystem services, such as freshwater supply, carbon sequestration and multiple heritage-related and cultural services.
3 - Coastal Olivillo forest
These forests are unique endemic vegetation systems, with a fragmented distribution from the Coquimbo Region (IV) to Guafo Island in the Los Rios Region (XIV), between approximately 30 and 43° South.
It is characteristic of the lower sectors of the Coastal Mountain range, appearing between the coastal border and extending up to a maximum altitude of 300 to 500 meters AMSL, conforming a community with a great richness of species.
It contains the highest species concentration of the Valdivian rainforests, which are both vascular and non-vascular. Currently it is fragmented considerably, mainly due to its exploitation as firewood and use as fencing material for livestock pastures.
Unfortunately, and despite its uniqueness and ecological importance, Coastal Olivillo forests are poorly represented in the National System of Protected Wildlife Areas, and are only considered as protected in the Fray Jorge- and the Chiloé island National Parks.
We included the Coastal Olivillo as a conservation object due to its uniqueness, endangerment at local level and because it is an emblematic specimen of the area.
4 - Freshwater- and estuarine ecosystems
This conservation object includes various water systems present in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve including rivers and their estuaries, marshes, lakes and wetlands.
These ecosystems provide a habitat for endemic species such as Pancoras (Aegla spp.), a freshwater crustacean, and endangered species including the Southern river otter (Lontra provocax), the Chilean frog (Calyptocephalella gayi) and fish such as the Puye (Galaxiidae family) and the Neotropical silverside (Atherinopsidae family).
These ecosystems are important to the local communities who extract certain natural resources such as the mussel (Mytilus chilensis), as well as important tourist attractions, as is the case of the Twin Lakes located in the Colún area.
5 - Sandy beaches and dunes
Sandy beaches and dunes are ecosystems dominated by unconsolidated sediments. Sandy beaches are intertidal environments that do not have a primary productive function, considering that algae –among the main food items for the wildlife that inhabits them– originate in other systems.
These ecosystems represent in only a small area of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve (around 150 hectares), but are important because they are used by approximately one-third of the birds that live in the area.
Furthermore, the beaches and dunes contain many vestiges of the archaeological heritage of the territory and are an important tourist attraction.
6 - Rocky coast
According to the criteria applied in the Marine Conservation Plan, this ecosystem considers the intertidal- and subtidal areas up to a depth of 30 m.
This conservation object is closely related to the Management and Exploitation of Benthic Resources Areas (AMERBs), managed by different fishermen’s unions, and is therefore not owned nor administratively dependent of The Nature Conservancy.
Its inclusion is due to the commitment of the Organization to the sustainable development of the coastal border, as well as to the protection of conservation objects such as the Marine otter (Lontra felina).
7 - Darwin’s fox, Kodkod wildcat and Pudú deer
This conservation object considers Darwin’s- or chilote fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), whose presence was only recently discovered in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, the Kodkod (Leopardus guigna) and the Pudú (Pudu puda).
These species are all endemic to the South American temperate forest (in the case of Darwin’s Fox, there are only records of its presence in Chile), all of them characterized by their smallness and all categorized as endangered; critical in the case of Darwin’s fox, and vulnerable in the case of the Kodkod and Pudú.
8 - Forest amphibians
At least 12 different amphibian species can be found in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, 11 of which in forestry areas.
These include endangered species such as Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), the Two-line mountain toad (Telmatobufo australis) and the Thorny-chested toad (Alsodes valdiviensis), the latter endemic of the Pelada Range.
The available information about the presence of amphibians in the Reserve is sketchy at best.
9 - Cultural heritage
As of 2015, the cultural heritage of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve is featured as a cultural conservation object.
In specific terms, this conservation object includes the archaeological sites on the beaches and dunes, the heritage linked to the timber industry and the ceremonial Chaway route as well as their respective intangible dimensions.
The Reserve includes 15 archaeological sites along the coastal area of the Colún beach and dunes which include cave art (petroglyphs), ceramics and ritual-related material.
Historical and ethnographic documentation provides background information on timber exploitation, while the industrial heritage tells us about ports, multiple forestry campsites in the mountain range, and a connecting track network.
The Mapuche heritage is expressed as a living experience in the use of the ceremonial site at Chaway (or Chaway Santita), and the route that connects it with Huiro in the north and Pilpilcahuin and Mashue in the south.
Similarly, an important part of the Mapuche heritage is associated with the knowledge and use of nature and its resources.
© UNKNOWN for The Nature Conservancy
Main threats: climate change, invasive species, illegal extraction and incompatible tourism
In the update process of the Area Conservation Plan we identified 16 threats, which were prioritized using the criteria available in the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (Conservation Measures Partnership, 2013; Foundation of Success, 2009).
The conservation objects with the highest threat level are the Olivillo Costero, the Rocky Coast and the Cultural Heritage of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
At Reserve level, the principal threats include climate change, invasive species, overexploitation of aquatic resources and incompatible touristical- and recreational use.
Simultaneously, public roads, fire risk, eucalyptus plantations, incompetently managed cattle breeding and free-roaming dogs are considered to be relevant threats to at least one or more conservation objects.
The threats that received a higher priority on the basis of their impact on the well-being of the communities are: climate change, invasive species, incompatible touristical activity, native forest substitution, forest fires and pollution.
What follows is a description of the mayor threats as defined for the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and its buffer zones.
Climate change is at least partially caused by humans through the emission of greenhouse gases deriving from fossil fuel combustion, including CO2.
In the south of Chile, this phenomenon will result (or is already resulting) in rainfall reduction and rising temperatures. Climate change is virtually irreversible, because even if we were to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero today, it would take over a thousand years to reverse their effects on the climate.
The planned improvements to the public road to better connectivity poses a threat to certain conservation objects. It is worth mentioning that when using the existing route (T-470) the expected impacts are lower than the originally planned new route. Furthermore, public roads and, specifically, their improvement, are a factor that contributes to the creation of other threats, such as incompatible touristical- and recreational use, for example, which may also negatively impact the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s conservation objects.
Pollution, mainly garbage, is a phenomenon that is present in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and occurs predominantly in public use areas.
In comparison with other parts of the country, pollution levels are relatively low, as reported in the case of micro-plastics.
However, pollution is an issue of great concern to the local community, mainly because of the garbage left behind by visiting tourists in the public use of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
The areas that are most exposed to strong stress from tourism, however, could be even more affected by general pollution (organic and inorganic), than is currently the case.
Other sources of pollution, although with a lower likeliness of occurrence –like an oil spill, such as occurred in Punta Galera–, could equally pose a threat to the area.
Even though lighting in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and the surrounding coastal areas and estuaries is currently scarse, it is likely that future development of the coast will include illumination initiatives. These pose a concrete threat, because the presence of artificial lighting leads to changes in the physiology, behaviour and biological interactions of different groups of vertebrates and invertebrates.
Carnivores that inhabit the Valdivian Coastal Reserve may occasionally prey on domestic animals. As a result, people, when given the opportunity, may attempt to eliminate the problematic animal or animals.
Refers specifically to the diseases that affect amphibians, the most relevant of which is chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by a fungus and considered to be among the major causes of global amphibian decline. The disease has been detected in various Chilean amphibian species, including several that also inhabit the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
Invasive- or exotic species are foreign to a determined area, and various, either by direct introduction or invasion, have colonized the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
The Reserve counts with a number of invasive species, among which the Mink (Neovison vison), Hare (Lepus europaeus), salmonids, Espinillo (Ulex europaeus) and the European wasp or Yellow Jacket (Vespula germanica) are the most relevant.
Dogs, cattle and eucalyptus, even though exotic, are treated as a seperate category, given their importance in the local economy and their management peculiarities.
Invasive species are considered an important threat to the area, particularly in the case of salmonids and Mink; however, long-term management of these threats requires certain common efforts and public policy beyond the local level.
The concern of the community, on the other hand, is mainly associated with the predatory Mink, even though there is also a certain degree of concern regarding the presence of the European wasp.
Illegal extraction of archaeological and historical materials
Refers to the extraction of valuable historical and/or archaeological materials from the historical sites within the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. The extraction of archaeological material, both at identified- and unidentified sites is illegal, as indicated in the National Monuments Act Nº 17.288, which classifies it as a felony and subject to punitive sanctions.
This threat causes irreparable damage to the cultural heritage, considering that it is a unique and finite resource.
Illegal extraction of timber and forestry products
Refers to the illegal removal of trees for timber or firewood. The actual occurrence of this threat is low and usually takes place in the vicinity of the public road.
The possession and management of livestock is an important activity for the local community, not only from an economic perspective but also as a part of its cultural identity.
However, cattle mismanagement poses a main threat to forest regeneration and, thus, negatively impacts multiple conservation targets.
Human caused fires represent a potentially significant threat to the majority of conservation objects. Most of the fires that have occurred sofar in the Reserve and the adjacent areas were relatively small.
Nonetheless, major forest fires have recently affected protected areas in the South of Chile, such as, for example, in the China Muerta Natural Reserve during the first half of 2015.
Climate change related temperature raise and rainfall decrease compel us to anticipate a future increase in the frequency, extension and severity of forest fires in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
Dogs play an important role in the local communities, providing company, protection and support in livestock management. However, roaming dogs that freely access the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and the Alerce Costero National Park pose a serious threat. They prey upon endemic wildlife, such as the Pudú, and also pose a threat to other animals, such as Darwin’s Fox, through the transmission of diseases such as canine distemper. The most problematic dogs may also prey on livestock.
Overexploitation of hydro-biological resources
Aquatic resources such as the Abalone (Concholepas concholepas) and Keyhole limpet (Fisurrella SP.) are an important source of income for the local communities which legitimately exploit them.
However, in addition to inadequate management, many of these resources are also illegaly exploited, including extraction from concessioned marine management areas (AMERBs).
These activities inevitably lead to overexploitation, with important consequences not only for the local economy, but for biodiversity in general.
Substitution, i.e. the replacement of native forest by exotic plantations is an historical threat, which no longer affects the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
Nonetheless, the negative effects of native forest substitution with eucalyptus are still present in over 3.500 ha of the area. The persistent negative effects of eucalyptus plantations include –apart of the alteration of the composition and structure of the soil– the depletion of water supplies and the negative impact on water quality in general.
Translocations are wildlife management measures commonly used in Chile. However, when animals are released at locations far distant from their places of origin, or without the appropriate health considerations and management, these type of measures may become a risk.
The potential negative effects of translocation include genetic consequences, the introduction of new diseases in the area, and a low survival rate of released animals. The latter has readily been observed in the case of Pudú released in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
This is why translocations must only be conducted with proper prior planning and justification.
Incompatible touristical- and recreational activity
Refers to touristical or recreational activities at restricted locations, in breach of law and/or internal regulations, which may cause damage to the natural- or cultural heritage of the area.
The most frequently observed activities that can be listed under this category include the use of motorized vehicles in restricted areas (e.g., on beaches and dunes), camping and hiking in areas that are not apt for these type of activities and touristical activity in excess of what the ecosystem or community can reasonably sustain.
Irresponsible touristical activity also represents a predisposing factor for other relevant negative events, such as wildfires, a situation that has already been experienced in protected areas other than the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, most notably the Torres del Paine National Park.
© UNKNOWN for The Nature Conservancy
Environmental education: sensitize and prepare current and future generations
The principal role of the Environmental and Patrimonial Education program is to educate the community on environmental and cultural issues related with the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
The corner stone of this program are the environmental- and patrimonial education activities aimed at the local scholastic community and the general public. Although their principal focus is on local schools, they may also include activities aimed at the adult population.
Considering the nature and objectives of this program, permanent coordination with the Social Participation and Community Development program is fundamental.
Environmental education is among the strategies generally identified as effective to contribute to the protection of conservation objects and the management of their threats. Therefore, the central contents of the environmental- and patrimonial education activities are established according to the priorities identified in the Conservation Plan.
As such, this program is a fundamental element for the diffusion of the conservation efforts in the Reserve and the adjacent areas, but also allows to contribute to the achievement of curricular targets required by educational institutions. For that reason, the coordination with environmental education plans, in the context of the public use of the Alerce Costero National Park is very important.
The centerpiece of the educational activities is the work conducted with local public- and subsidized private schools. The activities include the development of a pedagogical strategy that includes group dynamics, lectures, games and others.
In addition, education and outreach activities that involve the adult community, which can take shape in workskhops, talks and field trips (e.g., guided visits to the trails) are also organized.
To strengthen the Environmental and Patrimonial Education Program, The Nature Conservancy incorporates material support consisting in photo libraries, videos, free access to bibliographic materials, herbariums, etc.
Minimum required content
Based on the preparation of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve Conservation Plan, the following items are defined as minimum required content for the Environmental and Patrimonial Education Program.
These contents must be imparted on an annual basis, adjust to the curriculum guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Education, and apply under different teaching methodologies, considering that they are fundamental aspects of the strategies for the proper management of conservation targets.
• Conservation of dunes and sandy beaches
• Tangible- and intangible cultural heritage
• Forest fire prevention
• Responsible ownership of domestic animals (dogs, livestock and birds)
• Sustainable use of marine and benthic resources
• Conservation of the Pudú, Guiña and Darwin's Fox