Study area

fig1The Rio Maule-Cobquecura study area covers approximately 578,164 ha of land located in the Coastal Range of the Maule and Bio-Bio regions in south-central Chile (Fig. 1). The studied landscape partially includes the municipalities of Constitucio´n, San Javier, Quirihue and Cobquecua, and all the area of the municipalities Empedrado, Chanco, Pelluhue, and Cauquenes. The area is characterised by rainfall concentrated during the winter that leads to dry summers from September to April with little cloud cover and high luminosity. The natural forest is mainly dominated by secondary forest of Nothofagus species (N. obliqua and N. glauca) (Fagaceae) and sclerophyllous species including Acacia caven (Mimosaceae), Quillaja saponaria (Rosaceae), and Maytenus boaria (Celastraceae).

Also, many endangered species such as N. alessandri, Pitavia punctata (Rutaceae), and Gomortega keule (Gomortegaceae) occur in the study area. Forest clearance on a significant scale began with the arrival of European colonizers in the XVI–XVIIth century. Then, in middle of the XXth century a boom in the cultivation of wheat crops resulted in the elimination of extensive forest areas in the Coastal Range of the study area (San Martı´n and Donoso, 1997). In recent decades, the use of native forests for firewood has led to extreme degradation of this forest resource (Olivares, 2000).

According to field observations and different surveys, most of the native forests in the study area correspond to highly degraded secondary forest (Donoso and Lara, 1995). This type of fragmented forest is severely impoverished in commercially valuable timber species as a result of selective logging and fire wood extraction. Some of the remnant forest fragments are areas that were clear-felled for shifting cultivation and subsequently abandoned (Lara et al., 1997).

source: Rapid deforestation and fragmentation of Chilean Temperate Forests
by Cristian Echeverria a,b, * ,1 , David Coomes a , Javier Salas c , Jose´ Marı´a Rey-Benayas d , Antonio Lara b , Adrian Newton