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The world's five areas of Mediterranean climate basically occur on the western coasts of continents north and south of the Equator between the latitudes 27°-40°. The climate characteristically has warm dry summers with high solar radiation and evaporation, and cold but benign damp winters with low solar radiation and evaporation. The Mediterranean region in central Chile (picture) (Rundel 1981) is a strip c. 100 km wide along the continental margin, comprising three physiographic areas: Cordillera de la Costa, Valle Central and Andean Cordillera up to c. 1800 m (CONAF 1982). The soils are poorly developed, coarse and shallow.
The coast along the Pacific is characterized by either a narrow plain or a series of marine terraces extending several hundred meters upward, which were formed during the Quaternary. Also sand dunes are widespread along the immediate coast. About 40 km inland the Cordillera de la Costa (Coast Range) begins abruptly. It was formed from Precambrian and Cretaceous crystalline rocks thrust up during the Tertiary. One of the highest elevations is Cerro El Roble (2222 m), north-west of Santiago on the eastern edge of the mountain range. North of Santiago the area is mountainous, with several spurs and transverse valleys from the Andes descending westward.
The Valle Central (Central Valley) is a longitudinal basin filled by sediments from the surrounding mountains, especially the Andes. The c. 20-km wide valley extends uninterruptedly from just north of Santiago southward for 1100 km to Puerto Montt, with typical elevations of 400-700 m. Its landform structure is very similar to the Central Valley of California, U.S.A. except for the drainage. In Chile major streams arising in the Andes have cut perpendicularly across the Valle Central and broken through the Coast Range to reach the ocean, whereas in California the major rivers flow parallel to the valley.
The Andean Cordillera is the consequence of a complex series of tectonic uplifts from the Late Cretaceous accompanied by volcanic activity in the Oligocene and Miocene, followed by widespread erosion in the Late Tertiary. The modern form of the Andes is the result of major Pleistocene uplift which caused extensive folding of Mesozoic sediments. In central Chile the Andes reaches nearly 7000 m and consists of metamorphosed sedimentary rock underlain by granitic batholithic formations. Between 33°-37°S, about 40 volcanoes are known to have been active in the past 1 million years, and at least 20 during the last 12,000 years - with nine erupting between 1900-1980 (Fuentes and Espinosa 1986).
The defining climate of mild rainy winters (June-August) and summer droughts in the Mediterranean region of Chile varies greatly from year to year and within a season (Miller et al. 1977). The characteristic temperature patterns are defined primarily by topography. Masses of cold air from the sea penetrate beneath warmer air along the coast, creating a stable temperature-inversion stratum 400-700 m thick. Temperatures below the inversion layer are similar in the coastal and Andean ranges. In the interior the average annual maximum fluctuates between 20°-25°C, and the minimum frequently is below freezing. Near the coast the cool oceanic Humboldt Current moderates the average annual maximum temperature to 17°-19°C, and the minimum is rarely below 0°C.
The region's annual precipitation fluctuates between 100-800 mm, increasing from the coast toward the Andes and southward. Most precipitation occurs during the colder months as a few rainfalls. Convectional thunderstorms and lightning are rare. La Campana annual averages of precipitation vary between 400-600 mm, with temperatures of 9°-19°C (CONAF 1982). The annual average precipitation in the Santiago area is c. 350 mm, with c. 70% relative humidity.
The area between Combarbalá (31°11'S) and Linares (35°51'S) includes La Campana National Park and is characteristic for the Mediterranean-type climate and shrub vegetation. Most of the significant ecological communities of Mediterranean Chile are represented in the park, which includes eight main vegetation formations (Rundel and Weisser 1975; Rundel 1981; Villaseñor-C. 1979, 1980; Villaseñor-C. and Serey-E. 1980-1981).
1. Alpine-like steppe vegetation is found above 1600 m on the park's highest two mountains, on rocky slopes adjacent to Nothofagus stands. Dominants include tussock grasses such as Stipa and Festuca, Carex setifolia var. berteroana and low shrubs of Chuquiraga oppositifolia, Mulinum spinosum, Valenzuelia (Guindilia) trinervis, Schinus montanus and Colliguaja integerrima.
2. Nothofagus forest (picture) is the most unusual formation and represents the northern limit for the genus in South America. Nothofagus obliqua var. macrocarpa ("roble") (picture) occurs in scattered relictual stands 610 m high on south-facing slopes from c. 1000-1600 m on La Campanita (1510 m), La Campana (1890 m) and El Roble (2222 m) mountains. The thoroughly dominant roble is associated with the woody species Lomatia hirsuta, Schinus montanus, Aristotelia chilensis, Azara petiolaris, Berberis actinacantha and Ribes punctatum and the vines Vicia magnifolia, Mutisia ilicifolia and Tropaeolum azureum.
At lower elevations, the Nothofagus forest is replaced by hygrophilous forest where water is plentiful most of the year (e.g. along watercourses in canyons and on foggy slopes), and under moderately mesic conditions by either matorral or bamboo thicket.
3. Hygrophilous forest occurs on the western flank of the Coast Range in several associations. The formation is best developed above Olmué on Cerro La Campana. These closed-canopy communities have mixed, broadleaved evergreens (2-) 10-20 m tall. The dominants in three distinctive associations are: (i) Crinodendron patagua, Drimys winteri, Aristotelia chilensis and Rhaphithamnus spinosus; (ii) Persea lingue (which is also at its northern limit) and Luma (Myrceugenella) chequen; and (iii) Dasyphyllum excelsum, Beilschmiedia miersii, Myrceugenia obtusa and Sophora macrocarpa. High humidity from fog between 600-700 m on La Campana provides conditions for luxuriant growth of cryptogamic epiphytes and bromeliads, e.g. Tillandsia usneoides. Lichens have high species diversity in the fog belt.
4. Sclerophyllous forest (picture) is less moist than hygrophilous forest, and predominates on south-facing low to moderate slopes between 400-1000 m. The dominants include Cryptocarya alba, Peumus boldus, Beilschmiedia miersii and Azara petiolaris; there are many lianas (Proustia pyrifolia, Lardizabala biternata, Cissus striata) and vines (Bomarea salsilla). Extensive stands are now rare in central Chile, yet good examples occur along the lower slopes of La Campana.
Where sclerophyllous forest is disturbed, an open secondary vegetation is dominated by Acacia caven with Sophora macrocarpa, Trevoa trinervis and Podanthus mitiqui. A climax savanna of Acacia caven with Prosopis chilensis occurs on low arid plains and valley bottoms (Rundel 1981).
5. Matorral (picture) is variable in composition, and characterized by evergreen shrubs 1-3 m in height surrounded by a seasonal cover of herbaceous perennials (bulbs, ferns and vines) as well as some annuals (Rundel 1981). The matorral has many physiognomic and ecological similarities (at community to species levels) with the less diverse chaparral of southern California (Mooney 1977). Dominants include Lithrea caustica, Quillaja saponaria, Kageneckia oblonga, Escallonia pulverulenta and Maytenus boaria. Although most matorral communities of central Chile have been severely degraded by wood-cutting, charcoal-making and overgrazing, some natural stands still exist near cerros La Campana and El Roble.
6. Xerophytic spiny shrubs and succulents are found on north-facing slopes in the matorral areas. Species composition varies depending upon slope and altitude. Between 1000-1600 m occurs Puya coerulea var. violacea, a terrestrial bromeliad which is locally endemic to Chile's Mediterranean region, accompanied by Flourensia thurifera, Baccharis linearis, Eryngium paniculatum and Satureja gilliesii. Between 300-1000 m, the 2-4 m tall arborescent cactus Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis is common, along with Puya berteroniana (picture) and P. chilensis, and in spring an abundant herbaceous flora.
7. Extensive areas of bamboo thicket dominated by Chusquea cumingii form nearly impenetrable stands sometimes up to 3 m high in most community types in La Campana area.
8. Palm forest in the Ocoa Valley north of La Campana has the largest of the few remaining stands of Jubaea chilensis (picture). The thousands of palms are one of the outstanding features of La Campana area. Individual trees may reach 1.5-2 m in diameter and 20-25 m tall, making it the largest palm in the world in trunk volume (Rundel 1981). Once covering extensive areas in valleys of the Cordillera de la Costa, this species was heavily exploited and is now restricted to a belt along the Coast Range of central Chile from the southern Coquimbo (IV) Region southward to the Maule (VII) Region. It is found from near sea-level to above 1000 m, but absent from the Andean Cordillera.
The flora of Mediterranean Chile has three main phytogeographic relationships in addition to its endemics: taxa with affinities to the tropics, the south (Antarctic), or the Andes - an element that evolved with the forming of these mountains late in the Tertiary and Pleistocene (Raven 1973; Solbrig et al. 1977).
The relictual Nothofagus stands relate to cool-temperate Valdivian forests of southern Chile (Cassasa 1985). The flora (e.g. Lomatia, Nothofagus) also is related to the flora of southern Australia. Many of the Andean elements are related to North American migrants that reached South America with the joining of the two continents in the Late Pleistocene. The flora of central Chile has little taxonomic affiliation with the Mediterranean flora of California; most of the over 130 species now shared are weeds of European origin which were introduced by people in recent historical periods (Mooney 1977).
No complete Flora of Mediterranean Chile has been undertaken. Hoffmann-J. (1979) estimated that 1800-2000 vascular plant species may occur, yet between about 31°-31°15'S in an area of 104,000 km², Arroyo et al. (1994) estimated that at least 2395 species occurred. In this area there are 70 species of trees in 47 genera, and more tree species in the Coast Range than the Andes.
There are more woody species in a given area in central Chile than in the Mediterranean region of California, U.S.A., whereas total species richness is slightly lower in Chile than in equivalent California (Arroyo et al. 1994). Tree-species richness is highest between 34°-37°S latitudes, and is higher than in rain forest of equivalent latitudinal range (Arroyo 1994, pers. comm.).
Based on earlier studies near Santiago, about 10% of the genera and 95% of the species are Chilean endemics (Rundel 1981). Arroyo et al. (1994) found endemic tree species to be more frequent in the Coast Range - e.g. Gomortega keule, Pitavia punctata, Nothofagus alessandrii, Beilschmiedia spp. and Jubaea chilensis.
A preliminary partial list for La Campana National Park has 545 species: 16 pteridophytes; one gymnosperm; and 528 angiosperms, including 433 dicotyledons and 95 monocotyledons (R. Villaseñor-C. 1993, pers. comm.). The park well represents the floristic confluence of the four phytogeographic elements of the region (Villaseñor-C. and Serey-E. 1980). In the potential reserve at c. 33°S latitude there are a large number of endemics, including five annual and 18 perennial herbaceous genera, 11 genera of shrubs and three species of trees (Arroyo 1994, pers. comm.).
Species with lignotubers (e.g. Cryptocarya alba, Lithrea caustica, Kageneckia oblonga, Quillaja saponaria, Colliguaja odorifera, Satureja gilliesii, Trevoa trinervis) provide for their resprouting with basal underground buds (Montenegro, Avila and Schatte 1983), which perhaps evolved as an adaptation to volcanically induced fires (Fuentes and Espinosa 1986) and/or drought, frost and herbivory (Mooney 1977).
Mediterranean Chile has many threatened taxa (Benoit-C. 1989). Tecophilaea cyanocrocus is believed to be extinct in the wild due to collection of its bulbs. Endangered species include Adiantum gertrudis, Avellanita bustillosii and Beilschmiedia berteroana. Vulnerable taxa include Beilschmiedia miersii, Crinodendron patagua, Cryptocarya alba, Dasyphyllum excelsum, Jubaea chilensis, Krameria cistoidea, Lomatia hirsuta, Nothofagus obliqua var. macrocarpa, Persea meyeniana, Porlieria chilensis, Prosopis spp., Puya coquimbensis and P. venusta. Rare taxa include Adesmia balsamica, A. resinosa, Myrceugenia correifolia, M. exsucca and M. rufa. Many of these taxa occur in the potential reserve.
In Mediterranean Chile and the potential reserve there are many species of economic importance (Rundel and Weisser 1975; Muñoz-Pizarro 1971; Benoit-C. 1989). Timber trees used in construction and furniture manufacture include Nothofagus obliqua var. macrocarpa, Sophora macrocarpa and Persea lingue. Trees used for fuelwood and charcoal include Lithrea caustica, Quillaja saponaria, Cryptocarya alba and Maytenus boaria. Numerous species are used medicinally, e.g. Peumus boldus, Quillaja saponaria, Trevoa trinervis, Maytenus boaria and Drimys winteri. Species with edible fruits include Jubaea chilensis and Beilschmiedia berteroana; species with sap or extracts used for dye, soap or food include Lomatia hirsuta, Quillaja saponaria, Jubaea chilensis and Kageneckia oblonga. Ornamentals include cacti (e.g. Neoporteria curvispina), bromeliads (e.g. Puya spp. - some of which are also used for fibre) and many genera of bulbs (Hoffmann-J. 1989).
Social and environmental values
Central Chile is rich in natural resources which have been exploited over the centuries. La Campana region contains active mines for copper, quartz, feldspar, pyrites and molybdenum (Rundel and Weisser 1975). Long before the arrival of the Spanish in the 1530s, indigenous groups in this region (the Diaguita and the Picunche) practised agriculture near brooks and rivers in protected valleys. Principal crops included a grain (Bromus mango) and an oilseed (Madia chilensis). In addition to slash-and-burn winter farming, they constructed canals and irrigation ditches to water some crops during the dry summer (Aschmann and Bahre 1977).
Charles Darwin visited La Campana in August 1834 and in The Voyage of the Beagle described the beautiful scenery seen from atop this peak in the coastal mountain range. Today Andean condors are still observed flying over the summits. The area also harbours the world's largest hummingbird (Patagona gigas gigas) and pumas - which are gone from most of Chile. La Campana NP is important for its ecological value and as a recreational, educational and historical centre for much of the population. Over 9.5 million people (80% of Chile's population) live in this central region (Fuentes 1990) which includes Santiago and Valparaíso, both c. 40 km from the park.
Human activity has affected the Mediterranean ecosystems of central Chile for over 10,000 years. Use of fire and the hunting of large mammals, especially guanacos, have affected the vegetation. During colonial times land was cleared for agriculture and raising cattle. As villages and towns were established, large areas of forest and shrubs were burned, riverbeds modified, and the land altered for various purposes (Fuentes 1990; Rundel 1981; Aschmann and Bahre 1977; Cunill 1971).
The landscape of the Mediterranean region is greatly altered, particularly the Cordillera de la Costa, the Valle Central and the Andean precordillera. Hillsides are devoid of original vegetation, soil is eroded and a considerable percentage of the native flora is basically gone. Large native animals are now almost non-existent in the region, with the exception of some birds. The Valle Central is used for intensive agriculture that makes efficient use of water and soil.
Native vegetation has been affected directly by mining, logging, road construction, garbage dumps, recent urbanization, and pollution of the air, water and soil. Native forest has been replaced with exotic trees and the introduction of exotic weeds and fauna; e.g. the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has drastically changed the composition of some native communities.
The sclerophyllous vegetation of the Coast Range between 800-1000 m has been changed due to wood-cutting, charcoal-making and grazing of goats and sheep (Mooney et al. 1972; Fuentes and Hajek 1979). On the cordillera slopes, dense forests of broadleaved evergreen and deciduous species that occurred long ago have been transformed into degraded brush, which provides fuelwood and charcoal. Also leaves of Peumus boldus and other medicinal and/or aromatic species, including the dead leaves primarily of Lithrea caustica and bark of Quillaja saponaria (for saponin), are collected on these slopes. One important species of this region, Jubaea chilensis (picture), was approaching extinction during the 17th and 18th centuries due to extensive felling of the trees especially for their sap, which supplied sugar for the entire country (Fuentes 1990).
The region (34°-37°S) with highest tree-species richness, between Rancagua and Concepción, is an area of intensive agriculture, and the region with the lowest proportion of land protected (0.1-22%) (Armesto et al. 1992).
Chile has an extensive system of National Parks and protected areas administered by the Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF), but the Mediterranean region is one of the least represented in the Sistema Nacional de Areas Silvestres Protegidas del Estado (National System of Protected Wild Areas) (SNASPE). Eight principal areas are protected within Mediterranean Chile: (1) in Coquimbo (IV) Region near Combarbalá: Las Chinchillas National Reserve (42 km²); (2) in Valparaíso (V) Region: La Campana National Park (80 km²), Lago Peñuelas NR (91 km²), Río Blanco NR (102 km²); (3) in Metropolitan Region: Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary (116 km²), Río Clarillo NR (102 km²); and (4) in O'Higgins (VI) Region: Las Palmas de Cocalán NP (37 km²) - which includes an important population of Jubaea chilensis, Río de los Cipreses NR (386 km²). These areas in IUCN management categories II or IV (WCMC 1992) total c. 956 km², but they do not adequately conserve all the vegetation types of the Mediterranean region of Chile (cf. Balduzzi et al. 1981; Donoso-Z. 1982).
La Campana National Park was established in 1967. Protection was urgent because of deterioration as a result of population pressures and mining. La Campana area served for over a decade as a primary research site of the International Biological Programme (IBP), specifically for study of convergent evolution in the Chilean and Californian Mediterranean ecosystems (e.g. Mooney 1977). La Campana-Peñuelas Biosphere Reserve (171 km²), which was declared in 1984, links the non-contiguous NP and NR to the park's south-west.
In early 1993 CONAF held a symposium with c. 100 specialists to recommend priority sites for conservation of the biodiversity in Chile. The recommendation was accepted to incorporate into La Campana NP: Cerro El Roble, the Vizcachas range (reaching 2045 m), Cuesta La Dormida (1000-1500 m) and Alto de Chicauma (1990 m).
In addition, the following 11 areas in the Mediterranean region were recommended for strong protection: (1) in Coquimbo and Valparaíso (IVV) regions near Pichidangui: Cerro Santa Inés Los Molles (c. 40 km²); (2) in Valparaíso (V) Region: Alicahue in precordillera Petorca, Quebrada El Tigre in Zapallar, Cuesta El Melón, Bosque de Quintero, Bosque de Mantagua, Yali Marsh (c. 5.5 km²) and Laguna del Rey - important for nesting of birds on the Santiago coast; (3) in Metropolitan Region: Laguna de Aculeo; (4) in Metropolitan and O'Higgins (VI) regions: Altos (Macizo) de Cantillana (reaching 2318 m); and (5) in Maule (VII) Region in precordillera Molina: Radal Siete Tazas Protected Area (77 km²) - from which a c. 52 km² NR will be declared (CODEFF 1994, pers. comm.), and in precordillera Talca: Altos de Vilches PA (169 km²) (cf. Ormazábal-Pagliotti 1985, 1988, 1989; CONAF 1982).
The potential reserve area (Map 78) including La Campana NP and approaching Lago Peñuelas NR (which is south-east of Valparaíso) has a mosaic of vegetation types, which have undergone various degrees of disturbance. The area could be managed as an enlarged UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Biosphere Reserve with buffer zones for ecosystem restoration, as well as strictly protected zones. In order to ensure conservation, a realistic management plan and financial support must be provided. Since no other National Park occurs within a reasonable distance from the country's most populated cities (Santiago and Valparaíso), the recreational and educational values of this area also are significant.
Map 78. Portion of Mediterranean Region, Central Chile, showing general area for a potential reserve that would include Cerro El Roble, La Campana NP and part of Coast Range
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This Data Sheet was written by Adriana E. Hoffmann-J. (Fundación Claudio Gay, Alvaro
Casanova 613 Peñalolén, Santiago, Chile) and Olga Herrera- MacBryde (Smithsonian
Institution, SI/MAB Program, S. Dillon Ripley Center, Suite 3123, Washington, DC
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