Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 12, pp 1607–1626

The decline of an endangered temperate ecosystem: the ruil (Nothofagus alessandrii) forest in central Chile

  • Ramiro O. Bustamante
  • Carmen Castor


We describe the current state of the ruil (Nothofagus alessandrii) forest, a rare and endemic temperate forest in central Chile. Because of a long history of land-use, the ruil forest has suffered intense deforestation and fragmentation. By 1991, there remained 352.2 ha of forest in 183 fragments, most of them small and regular and a few large and irregular. From 1981 to 1991 the forest disappeared at a rate of 8.15% per year, to our knowledge, the highest value reported in forest fragmentation. Fragments are surrounded by a matrix of Pinus radiata plantations. Only 42 ha of forest (12% of the total area) are protected in a public reserve. An analysis of the composition of the forest shows that 13.8% of the total species are introduced. Pinus radiata is the only tree that has invaded this forest successfully. The 45.4% of native tree species are shade-tolerant and dependent on biotic pollinators and dispersers. These species should be the targets for future conservation efforts as they are particularly sensitive to fragmentation. We conclude that the current situation of the ruil forest is critical, and it will disappear in the next decade unless we conduct an active strategy of conservation, including integrated efforts both inside and outside protected areas and between landowners and public agencies.

deforestation fragmentation introduced species invasions Nothofagus alessandrii regeneration niche restoration 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramiro O. Bustamante
    • 1
  • Carmen Castor
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile

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