Planting the future

Chile one of only two in Latin America to increase woodland

Huge efforts to restock Chilean forests see 160 million new trees every year.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013  
Planting woodland can help to protect native trees like these in southern Chile. By Claudio Sepúlved Planting woodland can help to protect native trees like these in southern Chile. By Claudio Sepúlveda Geoffroy/ Flickr.

 

One hundred thousand hectares, the equivalent to 225,000 football fields, that is the area of land being forested per year in Chile. Thanks to this herculean effort, the Andean country — known for the extraordinary breadth of climates and ecosystems it covers — has been recognised as one of only two Latin American countries to have increased woodland. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Chile and Uruguay are the only to have achieved this feat in the entire continent.

Planting woodland can be done by either reforestation (restocking depleted forests) or afforestation (creating entirely new forests).

Fernando Raga, president of the Chilean Wood Corporation (CORMA), says the UN figures demonstrate the importance of planting forests for Chile as well as the wider world.

Currently, planted forests account for only seven percent of the world’s four billion hectares of forest, yet they account for two thirds of wood production, alleviating the pressure on native woodland.
 
Raga says this recent recognition is the result of a significant increase in forest plantations in the country’s recent history. According to the CORMA president, forest plantations in Chile have doubled in nearly 30 years, increasing from 1.1 million hectares in 1984 to 2.4 million in 2012.

“Of that total, 87 percent is situated on grounds with different levels of erosion, so it has generated economic, social and environmental benefits  – including the creation of jobs in the sector, which have increased from 65,000 to 122,000 in that period,” Raga told America Economia.

A national survey of woodland suggests forest levels have remained relatively stable throughout Chile’s recent history. Surveyed in the mid-90s, Chile had 13.4 million hectares of native woodland while a recent update suggests the figure is around 13.6 million hectares — a net increase of 200,000 hectares over a 15 year period.

Chile has a rich and distinctive flora, with over 2,500 unique vascular plants found nowhere else. Although not unique to the Andean nation, the country places high value on the distinctive Araucaria, Chile’s national tree.

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