Land use, biodiversity and national parks

According to the OECD taxonomy. 92% of Chilean land area is classified as predominantly rural. 6% as intermediate and 2% as predominately urban; hosting 36%. 14% and 49% of the Chilean population respectively. The importance of rural to Chile’s economic and social well-being is disproportionate to its population. as rural areas provide natural resources that much of the rest of Chile depends on for food. energy. water. forests. recreation. national character. and quality of life.

Indeed. forests. grasslands. wetlands. and other natural assets located primarily in rural areas can provide a range of benefits to Chilean society. In addition to contributing to private market activities these assets can have recreation values. offer flood protection. purify drinking water supplies. safeguard wildlife and bird habitat and regulate the climate.

These natural assets are particularly important for rural activities in Chile given the rich bio-diversity climatic conditions and peculiar geographic terrain. The climatic conditions range from the world's driest desert in the north of the country. to a Mediterranean climate in the centre. a humid subtropical in Easter Island. to an oceanic climate in the east and south. and the peculiar geographic terrain in Chile stretches over 4 300 km along the south-western coast of South America and no more than 240 km in width.

The rich climatic conditions and diverse geography produce a wide variety of primary goods ranging from horticulture in the Great North. pisco production. horticulture and goat raising in the Little North. viniculture and wine production in the centre and centre south. forestry in the south and centre south. cattle and milk production in the south. and sheep and forestry in the extreme south.

Figure 1.35. Production of primary activities among Chilean regions

Note: This map is for illustrative purposes and is without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory covered by this map.

The change of land use, mainly driven by the conversion of forest land, the expansion of agricultural land livestock activities puts pressure on competing uses of land. The great degree of concentration in economic activities, and especially settlement patterns, in Chile add to these pressures and poses challenges on biodiversity.

The intense mining activities in the north also bring important environmental challenges, especially the contamination of land. Indeed, the mining-intensive northern regions of Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo record the highest levels of contamination amongst Chilean regions.

Figure 1.36. Changes in the use of land in Chile, 1976-2007

Source: Developed by the Chilean Ministry for Agriculture (ODEPA) using the agricultural census from 1976, 1997 and 2007.

Figure 1.37. Geographic distribution and sectoral activity of contaminated areas in Chile, 2011

Note: This map is for illustrative purposes and is without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory covered by this map. The maps depicting the borders of Chile are for illustration purposes and do not engage the state of Chile according to Article 2, letter g of DFL 83 in 1979 from the Foreign Ministry.

Source: Chilean Ministry of the Environment.

In Chile, there have been designated protected areas since the early 20th century as defined in the National System of Protected Wild Areas of the State (SNASPE). The SNASPE is composed of national parks, natural monuments and national reserves. It currently has 100 units spread over 35 national parks, 49 national reserves and 16 natural monuments. The total surface area of protected areas comprises 14.5 million hectares, around 20% of the national surface land. The territorial distribution of protected areas is geographically very defined, with 84% of the protected areas located in the regions of Aysen and Magallanes, while in the regions of Coquimbo, Maule and Metropolitan, they comprise only 1%.

Figure 1.38. Protected areas in Chile

Note: This map is for illustrative purposes and is without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory covered by this map. The maps depicting the borders of Chile are for illustration purposes and do not engage the state of Chile according to Article 2, letter g of DFL 83 in 1979 from the Foreign Ministry.

Source: Chilean Ministry of the Environment based on Luebert and Pliscoff vegetation classification, updates in cartographic in 2011.

 
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