Chile aims to make Torres del Paine a global research center

A genetic study of an endangered Andean Deer, research on glacial retreat, and the mapping of orchid populations are among fourteen studies this year in the national park. 

The granite “towers” of Torres del Paine National Park – already splashed across outdoor magazines around the world – may soon become a regular feature of international academic journals, thanks to a concerted effort by the park’s administrators and Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).
Over the course of 2012 the Patagonian biosphere reserve will be the site of 14 major research projects authorized by CONAF Magallanes, and Regional Director José Fernández Dübrock has emphasized that the institution is doing all it can to facilitate further academic studies.
“The results of these studies, on many occasions, contribute towards knowledge that permits us to better protect the flora and fauna of the Park,” Fernández told Punta Arenas based El Pingüino.
The majority of this year’s fourteen investigations are being undertaken by foreign universities, ranging from Stanford University in the U.S. to France’s Université de Grenoble. However, Chilean institutions such as the Universidad de Concepción, Universidad del Bío Bío and Universidad Austral de Chile are also all leading research projects.
Meanwhile, some of the investigations will be joint projects between Chilean and international research institutes and foundations. These include a study by the Wildlife Research Center of the Kyoto University in Japan and Chile’s Centro de Estudios Científicos which will investigate the retreat of the Tyndall Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
Another – undertaken by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (España), la Universidad de Chile, and the Chilean government’s Agriculture and Livestock Service – will look at the “management and conservation of large vertebrates” on the fringes of the national park, and their interaction with primary producers in the region.
Three of the studies are being undertaken by the Environmental Association of Torres Del Paine (AMA Torres del Paine).
One will analyse the effects of recent wildfires on the park’s Andean Condor population, specifically in the Laguna Amarga, while another will register and map orchid populations. A third will catalogue all plant species found in the national park.
Other investigations will look at topics as diverse as paleontology, geology, hydrology and even a genetic study of the rare huemul, or South Andean Deer.
Guillermo Santana, administrator of the National Park, described the variety of this year’s projects as a major step toward making the park an international center of scientific research.
“It is positive for Torres del Paine because one of the reasons for having national parks is to provide facilities for scientific research,” Santana said. “With these regional, national and international studies, we are demonstrating to the scientific world the potential of the park and its ecosystems.