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Day 2 of “Chillin’ in Chile”!

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This afternoon we visited Parque Bicentenario, which consists of over 50 acres of land and has become a weekend hotspot for many local families. As you can see from the pictures, the plant biodiversity  is extensive, especially when compared to the area in the park versus the land outside. Lots of water is necessary to sustain the large amount of biodiversity since non regional and native plants are being grown in the area. Although the turf in the park requires lots of maintenance, it makes the land easier to relax in during the hot summer months. The park and the building are both so new that umbrellas are currently being used as a replacement for tree canopies. In addition to fish and birds that you can feed, this park has many assets that make it a welcoming area for visitors.  In the pictures, you can see the umbrella “canopies”, a plant display in the park, and members of our group feeding some of the animals.

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Day 2 Morning

This mornings adventure took us to 9k ft in elevation to the ski top mountain resort of Valle Nevado. The resort is closed to skiing this time of year given the lack of snow, but it is still open open to the public for hiking, picture taking, etc. The drive up was a beautiful one, along a relatively quite two lane road. The road had countless switchbacks which would have gotten monotonous had it not been for the breath taking views; a new one being provided at every bend. Along the drive we stopped to  ID flora and fauna. When we reached the top of the mountain at Valle Nevado we spent some time hiking around, making observations, and breathing the thin air. after which we enjoyed a picnic style lunch at the top of the mountain. The sweeping vistas of the Andes were truly a spectacle to behold.dsc06548dsc06560dsc06569dsc06546dsc06579dsc06581

Greetings from the students and faculty on Day #1 in Chile

Day 1: Santiago

Good Evening! We have just about finished up our first day in Chile!

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After a restless night for most of us, we arrived in Santiago around 7:3o AM. After immigration and customs, we boarded our bus, and headed to our first stop, Quilapilún: Parque Explorar. The Garden was filled with beautiful landscape architecture and sustainable building practices. We were able to visit a small cultural museum located within a home made of adobe bricks. We also viewed the ‘Edificio Techo Verde,’ a green wall covered in a variety of succulent plants, that provide excellent thermal insulation, protects surfaces from wear that is caused by UV ray exposure, and filters gray water from buildings. One of the most unique elements of Quilapilún is that the majority of land in the garden is dedicated to the growth of native Chilean plants. Our guide shared the many benefits offered by the diverse flora in the different regions of Chile, and stressed the importance of maintaining the biodiversity. The garden serves as a valuable educational resource to those of all ages and interests.

After our informative tour of the gardens, we enjoyed a traditional Chilean meal. I ate my first Humitas, which are boiled corn leaf rolls filled with seasoned ground corn, served with tomatoes and onions. We then headed to the area surrounding La Moneda, which is the building that houses the President of Chile, and the three cabinet ministers. Although we were unable to tour La Moneda, we found our way into the house of the Governor of the Santiago region. I really enjoyed looking at the beautiful stain glass ceilings, pictured below.

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We ended our evening enjoying a delicious Italian dinner close to our hotel. This is a picture of our guide, Mr. Leynar Leyton, sharing one of his favorite Chilean cakes with us!

 

 

 

Today is the day that we depart!

Good morning, it is raining hard here in New York, but hopefully our flight will depart on time at 2:55 pm from JFK. We fly to Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX and leave there at 7:40 pm (their time) for Santiago, Chile. We will arrive in Chile on January 4 and after we collect our luggage, we will go to our first exciting stop: the Quilapilún Park (http://www.parquequilapilun.cl). After our tour at this location, we will go to Pueblito Los Dominicos, a crafts market and popular tourist shopping destination in a heritage zone of Santiago, Chile. There are almost 200 tiny shops where all kinds of traditional goods, including leather work, wood craft, sculptures, paintings, copper cookware, fine jewelry, pets, flowers, medicinal herbs, Chilean plants, and also some traditional foods such as typical Chilean empanadas and Pastel de choclo can be found. We will have lunch at Los Dominicos.

Following lunch, we will go to our hotel, Apart Hotel Cambiasco in the heart of Santiago, and check in. From that point, we will travel by foot and El Metro (the subway). We will visit the Presidential Palace with our guide, Mr. Leynar Leyton. Leynar is a native Chilean who is currently working on his PhD. at the University of Georgia. Lucky for us, Leynar is back in Chile for the Christmas holidays and is helping to guide us.

Habitat Fragmentation

I found a great video explaining the main concepts of what habitat fragmentation is, how it affects the wildlife around it, and how to mitigate habitat fragmentation, all using my favorite example- kitties!

As a review, habitat fragmentation is defined as the process by which a large habitat gets broken up into smaller habitats through habitat loss. Habitat fragmentation often results in a species, plant or animal, to become endangered due to a separation from or decrease of necessary resources like food, water, and shelter.

In order to mitigate the threats of habitat fragmentation due to infrastructure, environmentalists and engineers join forces to create land bridges, overpasses, tunnels, and culverts to name a few examples.

How can you help mitigate habitat fragmentation? Become involved in local land use and zoning issues, keep your politicians informed about the impacts of habitat fragmentation, and support conservation planning and ecological restoration initiatives.

Just one week left . . .

Hard to believe but we leave JFK just about exactly a week from now!

 

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Will Chile’s 108% Increase in Forest Fire Affect Endangered and Rare Plant Species Populations?

To date, the outbreak in forest fires is up from last years 415 to the current total of 863. Thats a 108% increase that has burned some 26,996.12 hectares. These fires have been a result of hot temps and low rainfall, in addition to legal and illegal agricultural and forest burns.

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For the time being the National Forestry Corporation has suspended burning permits and they are calling for communities to refrain from any outdoor fires or using any equipment of machinery that may cause sparks or ignition. The highest at-risk areas for fire currently are the Coquimbo and Los Lagos regions, especially in the foothills and mountains of those regions.

With fire on the rise in Chile, and given its unique endemic flora, what effect will this have, or has this had, on those populations? We’ll have to wait until the smoke clears…

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Featured Chilean Plant: Yareta

You’re hiking far into the Andes mountain range, high above the sea.  For miles upon miles, all you see is sky, sand, and rocks— wait…except for that lime green amorphous mass right there.  Are you seeing this right? You sure are.  It’s not Oobleck or alien slime, but a plant with clever adaptations, Yareta.

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Yareta (Azorella compacta) is a plant native to South America, present at altitudes between 10,000 and 15,000 ft above sea level.  It’s in the family Apiaceae, same as many familiar plants such as carrots, celery, and parsley.  In contrast to how it may appear, Yareta is an incredibly firm, dense plant with a woody structure covered in many small waxy leaves.

Its foreign appearance is due to the plant’s adaptations to surviving a fairly inhospitable environment where it must endure drought and regular bouts of cold temperatures.  It grows incredibly slowly, at a rate of 1.5 cm in any direction a year to conserve resources needed to produce biomass, and grows dense to conserve the plant’s internal heat and moisture.  The waxy cuticle on the leaves also ensure less water transpires from the plant.  Botanists theorize that Yareta limits itself to several feet in height because it’s slightly warmer clinging close to the ground.

 

Pretty crazy, isn’t it? It’s amazing what forms plants can take to survive.

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A Brief History of Preservation and Conservation Efforts in Chile

Chile, like most countries today, have developed a greater concern for protecting natural areas to conserve natural wildlife and biodiversity. It is important though, to understand Chilean’s history of protecting wildlife areas to understand how Chile can move forward in protecting biodiversity

The history wildlife modern wildlife preservation began with the establishment of Yellowstone in 1872, the first established national park in the world. Since the inception of the United States National Park Service, Western cultures paid greater attention to the need of preserving wildlife from human disturbance. Currently in this time period, de-forestation and agriculture development was rampant in Chile. Two European naturalists, Claudio Gay and Federico Albert, helped develop the first government natural protection programs in Chile with a focus on preserving forest heritage. Due to commercial interests, it was not until 1907 that the first natural protection area, the Malleco National reserve, was established. Following 1907 to 1925, many new reserves were established. In 1927 the first national park, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, was established. Unfortunately, many of the reserves created served only for conservation efforts rather than ecological ones, and by the 1930s, a large portion of Chilean’s forests were cut down and all fertile land was used for agriculture. Only the southern and high elevation regions of Chile were considered for protection

 

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Chilean government reconsidered the importance of establishing protected areas. Following international trends for the need of ecological preservation, Chile, in 1984, established a law that created the government program national public system of protected areas, or SNAPSE. The goal of the program was to both compile the current scattered areas of protected land into one program, and to increase the amount of protected “wilderness” lands in Chile. Today, SNAPSE continues to be a somewhat effective program, however many preservation efforts in Chile are being led by philanthropic private land owners there. Critics argue that while these private lands are assisting in biodiversity protection, government regulation is needed to ensure that these lands are not converted into agriculture, development, etc.. if the landowners decide to change their objectives. Below is a picture of the Altos de Lecay national preserve located about 40 miles east of Talca.

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If you are interested more information on the history of Chile protection areas can be found with the link below

http://www.ieb-chile.cl/otras_publicaciones/APauchard/Pauchard_Villarroel_2002_Nat_Areas.pdf

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