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Los Alerces National Park

Los Alerces National Park

The Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes of northern Patagonia and has a western boundary, which coincides with the Chilean border. Successive glaciations have moulded the landscape in the region creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques and clear-water lakes. The vegetation is dominated by dense temperate forests, which give way to alpine meadows higher up under the rocky Andean peaks. The property is vital for the protection of some of the last portions of continuous Patagonian Forest in an almost pristine state and is the habitat for a number of endemic and threatened species of flora and fauna.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Parc national de Los Alerces

Le Parc national de Los Alerces se trouve dans les Andes, au nord de la Patagonie, ses limites occidentales coïncidant avec la frontière chilienne. Les glaciations successives ont façonné le paysage de la région et créé des paysages spectaculaires faits notamment de moraines, de cirques glaciaires et de lacs aux eaux claires. La végétation est dominée par des forêts denses tempérées qui, en altitude, font place à des prairies alpines, sous les pics rocheux des Andes. Le bien est vital pour la protection de certaines des dernières parties de forêt patagonienne d’un seul tenant, quasi vierge, qui abrite de nombreuses espèces de flore et de faune endémiques et menacées.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Los Alerces Nationaal Park

Het Los Alerces Nationaal Park is gelegen in het Andes-gebergte van Noord-Patagonië. De westelijke grens van het park valt samen met de grens met Chili. Opeenvolgende ijstijden hebben het landschap op een spectaculaire manier gevormd, bijvoorbeeld met morenen, keteldalen en meren met kraakhelder water. De vegetatie wordt gedomineerd door dichte bossen en op de hoger gelegen delen zijn alpiene weiden te vinden, onder de rotsige toppen van de Andes. Het gebied is van groot belang voor de bescherming van sommige van de laatste ongerepte delen van het aaneengesloten Patagonische woud, en het is de habitat voor een groot aantal inheemse en bedreigde flora en fauna.

Source: unesco.nl

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Lake environment with temperate Alerce forest © Ricardo Villalba
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Los Alerces National Park is located within the Andes of Northern Patagonia and the property’s western boundary coincides with the Chilean border. The property coincides with the formally gazetted Los Alerces National Park covering 188,379 ha and has a buffer zone of 207,313 ha comprising the contiguous Los Alerces National Reserve (71,443 ha) plus an additional area (135,870 ha) which forms a 10 km wide band around the property except where it borders Chile.

The landscape in this region is moulded by successive glaciations creating a scenically spectacular variety of geomorphic features such as moraines, glacial river and lake deposits, glacial cirques, chain-like lagoons, clear-water lakes, hanging valleys, sheepback rocks and U-shaped valleys. The Park is located on the Futaleufú River basin which encompasses a complex system of rivers and chained lakes, regulating the drainage of the abundant snow and rain precipitation. The property is dominated by the presence of Patagonian Forest which occupies part of southern Chile and Argentina. This forest is one of the five temperate forest types in the world, and the only ecoregion of temperate forests in Latin America and the Caribbean. The property is vital for the protection of some of the last portions of continuous Patagonian Forest in almost a pristine state and it is the habitat for a number of endemic and threatened species of flora and fauna including the longest-living population of Alerce trees (Fitzroya cupressoides), a conifer endemic to South America.

Criterion (vii): The property conserves a variety of landscapes and scenery. It contains an extensive system of interconnected, natural clear-water lakes and rivers. These waters display spectacular colours with shifting hues of green, blue and turquoise according to the intensity of sunlight and the time of the year. Crystal-clear rivers and lakes are surrounded by lush temperate Valdivian forests in an environment of mountain ranges, glaciers and snow-capped peaks. The Alerce forest is a celebrated feature of this majestic landscape; the forest is particularly remarkable in the north arm of Lake Menéndez which contains the Millennial Alerce Forest, located amidst a rainforest environment of ferns, moss, lichens, vines and bamboo, and with the largest and oldest tree being nearly 60 metres tall and approximately 2,600 years old. The Los Alerces National Park retains a high degree of naturalness providing a profound visitor experience.

Criterion (x): The property contains globally important undisturbed areas of Patagonian Forest, influenced by elements of Valdivian Temperate Forest, which is a priority ecoregion for biodiversity conservation worldwide. The Valdivian ecoregion has developed in marked biogeographic insularity, in which important speciation processes have taken place. This is evidenced by the presence of relict genera and even taxonomic orders, as well as numerous endemic and threatened species: 34% of woody plant genera are endemic, from which 80% are known from only one species, and some are relict having survived periods of glaciation. The globally threatened Alerce tree is the second longest living tree species in the world (> 3,600 years). Unlike many other Alerce forests, which show signs of alteration due to exploitation, livestock farming or fire, the Alerce forest in the property is in an excellent state of conservation, which contributes to the long-term viability of the species’ natural populations.

Integrity

The inscribed area corresponds to the Los Alerces National Park, a legally protected area equivalent to IUCN Category II. The property is uninhabited and road less; it contains significant strictly protected zones (equivalent of IUCN Category I). These include an “Intangible Area” (comparable to IUCN Category Ib) and a “Strict Nature Reserve” (Category Ia) adding up to 125,463 ha or two-thirds of the property. In addition, some of the forests in the property have a very high degree of natural protection due to their remoteness and rugged terrain, combined with a longstanding formal conservation history and are therefore exceptionally intact. The property contains the most intact and least vulnerable Valdivian Temperate Forest stands in Argentina and is of sufficient size to sustain its Outstanding Universal Value. Other areas in Argentina and neighbouring Chile also offer the potential for the future expansion of this property.

The contiguous 71,443 ha Los Alerces National Reserve forms part of the property’s buffer zone and is also a protected area equivalent to IUCN Category VI; thus allowing sustainable use of its resources. The National Reserve is inhabited by a small number of rural settlers and is subject to grazing. It is the focus on most tourism activity and contains the main visitor infrastructure and services. The National Reserve is also the location of the 1970s Futaleufú Dam, reservoir and associated hydropower infrastructure. The reservoir created by the dam extends into areas of the property. One of the most striking values of the property is its impressive scenic beauty. The ensemble of majestic, partially glaciated mountains transitioning into dense and largely intact forests across most of the property, interrupted only by the countless crystal-clear lakes, rivers and creeks, is visually stunning. The dam is a major non-natural landscape element that is a long-standing and permanent damaging feature in the natural landscape.

Protection and management requirements

The property is part of the National System of Protected Areas in Argentina (SNAP - Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas de la Argentina), which is under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Administration (APN), a self-governed body created by Law No. 12,103 in 1934, regulated by National Law No. 22,351 of 1980. The overarching legal objective of the property is protection and conservation for scientific research, education and enjoyment of the present and future generations. All land is in the public domain in accordance with the legal provisions.

Long-standing conflicts exist in the National Reserve, which forms part of the buffer zone, concerning land tenure rights on private property. Private land only occurs over a small area however, use rights extend to much wider areas of the National Reserve. It is important to seek a satisfactory resolution through working with local communities to limit impacts and optimize the benefits of World Heritage listing for stakeholders.

The property has a management plan which was legally adopted in 1997 and will be revised and updated when required, including provisions to enhance participatory approached to management. The property benefits from adequate human and financial resources for its management and has a highly professional ranger corps responsible for on-ground control and law enforcement. However, operational resources are very limited and should be improved.

As one of the key values of the property is its high degree of naturalness, it is therefore imperative to avoid any further developments that could lead to fragmentation of the property. The impacts of the Futaleufú Dam, reservoir and associated infrastructure should be carefully monitored to mitigate against legacy, current and possible future impacts. Any major upgrades of this infrastructure should be avoided. Any ongoing routine maintenance or unavoidable upgrades should be subject to rigorous environmental impact assessment to safeguard against impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.

Provision of sustainable tourism and recreation is an important management objective and subject to major spatial and management restrictions through zoning. In spite of these measures there are concerns about growing tourism and recreation driven by growing local demand from nearby towns. Such demand could increase with the World Heritage designation of the park. Invasive alien species, which is a key threat throughout the region, requires effective control measures particularly to avoid impacts to the fragile freshwater ecosystems that are present in the property.