Alerce 3000

Pumalín Park, a project of The Conservation Land Trust in south Chile, protects some of the world’s last remaining stands of alerce trees, millennia-old giants that have been heavily logged for their rot-resistant timber. The Alerce 3000 restoration project works to restore, not just protect, these trees as well as the other native floral species of the Valdivian rainforest. One of Earth’s few temperate rainforests, with high floral biodiversity and endemism, this natural community has suffered from a century of clearing, burning, and logging.

The Alerce 3000 program takes its name from the concept that restoring these ancient forests will take centuries—quite possibly until the year 3000. While interested in all native species of this forest, the program focuses particularly on its namesake tree, the magnificent and endangered alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides).

One of the largest and most long-lived species on Earth, the alerce can reach 200 feet in height and 16 feet in diameter. Scientists estimate that some individual trees are more than 4,000 years old. Strictly protected (officially) since the 1970s, in practice the trees have only weak safeguards; Chile prohibits cutting live alerce trees, but allows the milling and sale of dead trees, thus encouraging poachers to kill alerces and return later to harvest the lumber. The farms and guard stations around Pumalín Park have been key to deterring timber poachers.

The program operates a native species nursery and a reforestation effort to help recreate species diversity of this native forest. The native tree nursery, based at the Vodudahue farm, raises over 20 species of trees. In recent years, the nursery and its greenhouses have contained upwards of 100,000 plants in various stages of growth. The companion reforestation program determines which areas of forest to target for restoration, focusing on areas of past settlement where human activity has degraded the forest ecosystem. This initiative is building a base of knowledge about forest restoration that will be invaluable for future conservation work within and beyond Pumalín Park.

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