The Endemic Plants of Chile

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Patagonian Steppe and Andean Subpolar Forests

The Patagonian steppe corresponds to a steppe covered with large pastures of Festuca, Empetrum and Mulinum, which often provide food for grazing that at one time exceeded 5 million sheep; in fact, the soils of Chilean Patagonia have been degraded by overexploitation for almost 150 years. In this area there is also peatlands which developed in areas once covered by glaciers. This consists of low vegetation dominated by flat cushion-like plants, with an important presence of grasses and mosses. Peatlands are also capable of capturing and retaining large amounts of carbon, another reason why they should be protected. In contrast, the southern islands of Aysén and Magallanes, are covered by a mixture of deciduous and evergreen forest. These forests also occur at high elevation right up to the glaciers and areas with permanent snow cover. Species such as the ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica) and the lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) are found here, as well as Ciprés de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron uviferum) and mañío de hojos punzantes (Podocarpus nubigena).

Torres del Paine National Park is a great example of the Patagonian steppe, together with its mountain forests and riverside plant communities all of which support an abundance of wildlife.

Endemic taxa only occurring in Patagonian Steppe and Andean Subpolar Forests