Conservation action for two threatened iconic endemic trees in Chile

Conservation Problem
Nothofagus alessandrii and Gomortega keule are two Chilean endemic trees to the coastal Mediterranean mountain range of the Maule region, which are threatened with extinction due to fragmentation of their native habitat by the establishment of pine and eucalyptus plantations and forest fires.

Project Goal
This project aims to safeguard the species through the establishment of conservation collections (seed storage and living collections) and to improve the conservation status of the target species by carrying out population reinforcement planting in selected wild populations.

Why these species?

Nothofagus alessandrii (Endangered on IUCN Red List) is a large monoecious tree meaning separate male and female flowers on the same individual; its distribution is severely fragmented along 100 km of the Coastal Cordillera in the Maule Region due to plantations of commercial, exotic, forestry species, such as Eucalyptus spp. and Pinus radiata. Recent forest fires affected more than 50% of the area in which the trees are found, leaving the species in an even more critical state.

Capsules of Nothofagus alessandrii. Credit: Persy Gómez de la Fuente

Gomortega keule (Endangered on the IUCN Red List)is the only member in the Gormotegaceae family, its populations are small and scattered, usually comprising less than 100 individuals. There are reportedly 26 small populations but only 2 of them are in the national system of wild protected areas. Much of its native ecosystem has been destroyed and the species has been severely affected by fire and selective logging. It regenerates from seed very poorly, due to consumption by rodents as well as collection by humans.

Leaves of Gomortega keule. Credit: Persy Gómez de la Fuente

What are we doing about it?

In 2020, the GTC has started a collaboration with Talca Botanic Garden in Chile with the aims of increasing the technical capacity of project partners to secure and improve the conservation status of these target species. The project activities scheduled for this project are:

  • Survey and inventory of the populations and collect propagation material from the target species;
  • Train project partners in collection, propagation techniques, ex situ management and development of recovery plans for both species;
  • Propagate seedlings and develop best-practice propagation protocols;
  • Eradicate invasive species and enrichment plant permanent plots with the target species;
  • Run a public outreach event at a major venue in Chile to publicize the project’s results and mobilize further resources for future conservation work.
Contact details

For more information on this project, please contact globaltrees@bgci.org

Did you know?

The makore tree (Tieghemella heckelii), itself threatened by logging, provides an important food source for forest elephants in Central Africa.

Read more more about trees with important ecological roles.