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Wildlife: Plants and Animals

Named a national park in 1935, a biosphere reserve in 1977, and nominated for a World Heritage listing in 1995, the flora and fauna of the Juan Fernández Islands are making a name for this remote archipelago. Said to have 16 endemic genres of plants and almost 130 endemic plant species—including cinnamon trees, “the apple tree of Juan Fernández”, chonta palm trees, and small orange trees—the islands are host to three major flora communities: the evergreen rainforest, the evergreen heath (heath means dwarf-shrub habitat) and the herbaceous steppe (a steppe is a plain, prairie, or semi-desert).

 

The islands boast a bit of endemic fauna, though the only native mammal is the Juan Fernández fur seal—there are almost 9000 on the archipelago's territory, although the species faced extinction just a century ago. Sadly, the Juan Fernández hummingbird has a reverse slide in numbers; there are only 250 of the beautiful red (male) and green (female) birds left, and extinction looks not too far off. Other birds native to the islands are the Juan Fernández firecrown and the Masafuera Rayadito, and marine life includes the elephant seal, aside from the aforementioned fur seal.

 

As there is this abundance of plant life present which is not found anywhere else on earth, Juan Fernández wildlife is closely audited. It's understood that, despite its high numbers of unique plants, only 10% of the islands are covered in natural vegetation. 46% of the flora has suffered from erosion, and aside from that, introduced mainland animals such as goats, rats, dogs, cats and rabbits, have destroyed a significant amount of vegetation. To combat the decline of natural wonder, in the mid 1990s the Chilean government created a $2.5 million restoration program. This project works to project the some 800 birds who inhabit the islands in the summer (numbers drop to 440 for the winter season), in addition to all of the archipelago's dependent land and sea animals, trees, berries, ferns and the like.










By Margaret Rode
A self-professed city girl, sassy staff writer Margaret Rode hails from Chicago where she received Bachelor degrees in English Literature and Spanish...
03 Jul 2009




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