Nowhere is the fate of sub-tropical rainforest more vividly illustrated than in Chile, where vast areas of old-growth forest have been chipped and pulped, to be replaced by commercial plantations of eucalypt and pine. Of the 100 km2 of Parque Nacional Fray Jorge, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, only 400 Ha consists of native vegetation, remnants of an ancient cloud forest fed by fogs rolling in from the southern Ocean. Cajón Grande, in Parque Nacional La Campana, an hour’s drive or so inland from Valparaiso, protects stands of the deciduous southern beech, Nothofagus obliqua, otherwise known as el roble de Santiago. Seven of the ten species of Nothofagus native to Chile can be seen in the Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay.
At the northern extremity of the Valdivian region we find roble rauli (Nothofagus alpina). Clearing for agriculture and timber plantation has impacted heavily on the numbers of N. alpina which is not endemic to any of the protected areas. Nothofagus alessandri, understood to be one of the most primitive members of the genus, once widespread in the province of Maule, is now encountered only as growths sprouting from stumps in a few scattered localities, apart from the Reserva Nacional Los Ruiles created in 1992 to protect it.
Only one Araucaria is native to Chile and that is Araucaria araucana, known in Britain as the Monkey-Puzzle and to Chileans as pehuén. In the Parque Nacional Tolhuaca, old-growth stands of A. araucana can still be seen with lenga, Nothofagus pumilio. The biggest stands of Araucaria can be seen in Parque Nacional Conguillío and Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta.
In south central Chile, deciduous beech forests give way to evergreen lauraceous forests. Further south still we find ourselves in the region known as Patagonia.
Chile was one of the first countries where private organisations began to acquire land for conservation purposes. In 1991 private individuals clubbed together to secure funding from Ancient Forests International to set up the Fundación Lahuen to administer the 500 Ha sanctuary El Cañí. In November 2003, a consortium of conservation groups, both Chilean and international, bought 600 km2 of rainforest in the Valdivian coastal range from a bankrupt logging firm. Chile now has about 133 private reserves, covering a total of about 4,000 km2; together they form the Red de Areas Protegidas Privatas.