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Nature Sanctuaries

It is one of the five categories of national monuments. According to he definition of the Council of National Monuments (which depends on the Ministry of Education), they correspond to “terrestrial or marine sites that offer special possibilities for research and geological, paleontological, zoological, botanical or ecological study; or that have natural formations whose conservation is in the best interest of science or the State”.

The sites that are declared sanctuaries are left under the guard of the Council of National Monuments, and their upkeep is left in private hands when it is private property. The National Monuments law states that construction of digging cannot take place at these spots, nor can there be activities like fishing, hunting, farming or any other activity that could alter its natural state without prior consent on the part of the Council.

Currently, 37 sites have been catalogued as nature sanctuaries.

They are:

Dragon Hill: declared a sanctuary during 2005, this hill is located in the region of Tarapaca, in Alto Hospicio county. It is a dune that, apart from being a true relic of coastal landscape, is the only one located in the greater north of our country.
Chacarillas Gully: located east of the Tamarugal Pampa (region of Tarapaca), it stands out for its high paleonthological value, as dinosaur tracks have been found in its slopes hat date back 150 million years.
Huasco Saltpan: located 180 kilometers from the city of Iquique. It corresponds to one of the most virgin wetlands of our country, and it houses important populations of flamingos. This way, due to its ecological importance, it was dubbed a Ramsar site (see ahead).
Valle de la Luna and part of Sierra de Orbate: it is part of Los Flamencos National Reserve and is a depression that acquired a particular appearance, with highly eroded salt and gypsum rocks, after successive geological processes.
Geological barrens formed by orbicular granite rocks: in the region of Atacama, in the coastal sector of el Rodillo, there are some geological formations made up of granite rocks with special characteristics, catalogued as unique in South America, of which there are very few cases worldwide.
Conchali Lagoon: it is located in Los Vilos (region of Coquimbo). As of the year 2000, this wetland received the classification of sanctuary for the enormous value it receives due to the high diversity of species that inhabit it (plants and animals), as well as being a strategic point for the migration of birds along the extensive Chilean coast.
Cachagua Island: ten years before it was catalogued as a natural monument by CONAF, the sector was dubbed a nature sanctuary due to its important ecological characteristics for the central zone.
Oceanic Rock: it is located in the road that joins Concon and Viña del Mar. The sanctuary stands out for an enormous 25 meter tall rock located at he edge of the shore, surrounded by high, hard to access cliffs.
Federico Santa Maria Cliff: located in the county of Valparaiso, this sanctuary has the peculiarity of housing plant species that are typical to wetland and pre mountain range zones in the coastal sector of Chile central.
El Salto Palm Plantation: located in the region of Valparaiso, it is catalogued as the third most important Palm plantation in Chile and the world, because it has over 6 thousand specimens of Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis).
Las Petras de Quintero and its surroundings: sanctuary located in Quintero (region of Valparaiso), among its main features it has a relict type swamp forest (with species like winter’s bark and peumos).
Punta de Concon Dune Field: decreed a sanctuary in 1993, his sector currently has high tourisms appeal thanks to the presence of tall dunes, the origin of which dates back to the Quaternary period and it is explained by the modeling action of the wind.
Pajaros Niños Islet: located in Algarrobo bay, in the region of Valparaiso seaboard, it was declared as a sanctuary due to the important populations of penguins housed there. The main colonies correspond to Humboldt (Spheniscus humboldti) and Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus).
Peñablanca islet and rock formations: it is located near the beached of El Canelo and El Canelillo, in the region of Valparaiso’s seaboard. Peñablanca is a rock that is nearly 30 meters tall that turns into an islet during high tide and is surrounded by other rock formations that are greatly attractive for tourists.
Sala y Gomez Island: a santuary located in the Pacific Ocean (part of our insular territorios) and which is made up a very low and flat volcanic island, which, thanks to its location, receives an enormous influx of birds of tropical origin. 
It also has interesting marine resources.
Islands adjacent to Easter Island: a sanctuary since 1976, it is made up of islets which are close to our most important insular territory and far from the coasts of continental Chile.  These islands are of volcanic origin and they have great importance for the culture of the people of Easter Island, who called them “motus” and included them in the important legends of the island, like that of Manutara, or the bird-man.
El Peral Lagoon: located on the outskirts of Algarrobo, on the coast of the Region of Valparaíso.  It has a small lagoon and is surrounded by dunes, on which vegetation consisting of herbs and shrubs grows.  It is the habitat of an abundant quantity of birds, many of which have conservation problems or are of great scientific interest.
El Cipres Mountain Region:  belonging to the commune of San Felipe, in the Region of Valparaiso, this area was categorized as a sanctuary in May of last year.  It is located on the western slope of El Tabaco hill and it represents one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Aconcagua province.  It is home to an important population of Chilean incense-cedar (Austrodecrus chilensis).
El Roble Hill Sector: this is between Tiltil and Llayllay, close to the area of Caleu (Metropolitan Region).  It was declared a sanctuary in the year 2000 and its main attraction is the oak forest it shelters on the hill.
Yerba Loca Natural Sanctuary: it is located to the extreme southwest of the Mapocho river basin.  It is a high mountain zone, where three important relief formations are located: two chains of hills and the glacial river valley of Yerba Loca.
Quinta Normal Park:  this is the only park situated in an urban space, inserted in the interior of the city of Santiago.  It’s value is centered around the balanced coexistence of its nature (its vegetation, composed by numerous ancestral trees, is especially notable) and the existing constructions in its interior.  Here it is possible to find diverse spaces dedicated to culture, education and entertainment.
Los Nogales: this sanctuary is located on the outskirts of the Andean mountain range in Santiago, and it used for ecotourism activities. It contains a sclerophyll forest vegetation, with species such as soap bark trees and lithraea, while in terms of fauna, rodents such as degu, chinchillas, Long-tailed Pygmy Rice rats and Olive Grass mice.
Cascadas de las Animas: located in the pre-mountain range of the Metropolitan Region, 63 kilometers from Santiago, this is a private zone categorized as a sanctuary since 1995 for its great scenic beauty.  It has ravines with abrupt slopes where important water courses run, such as the Maipo river and the El Manzanito marsh, among others.
Alto Huemul: in the Region of Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins, in the pre-mountain range neighboring San Fernando, we can find an important population of Nothofagus oblique that corresponds to one of the largest and northernmost forests of this species in Chile. Together with this species it’s possible to find other species such as the Chilean incense-cedar (Austrocedrus chilensis) and the Coihue (Nothofagus dombeyi).  While the area’s fauna is characterized by its abundante of birds, such as condors and Austral parakeet.
Torca Lagoon: located in the surroundings of Vichuquen Lake (Region of El Maule), it distinguishes itself as the habitat of various bird species (more than 70 have been counted) and for its schlerophyll brush vegetation.  This ecosystem is categorized as one of the zones with the greatest concentration of aquatic birds in central Chile, because of its great food and shelter conditions.
Los Morrillos: a sanctuary created by decree on June 30th, 2005, located in the Andean pre-mountain range in the Region of El Maule which belongs to the commune of San Clemente.
Reloca Wetland: located in Pahuil, in the commune of Chanco, in the Region of El Maule.  It was categorized as a sanctuary on November 28th, 2005.
Rocas de Constitucion: located in the coastal sector of the commune of Constitution, in the Region of El Maule, this is the most recently created sanctuary, declared in May of 2007.
Los Huemules de Niblinto Natural Sanctuary: inserted into the Andean mountain range in the Region of Biobio, the zone can be distinguished by the presence of two important geological formations: the Nevados de Chillan and the Chillan volcano, which make up an interesting relief. It makes up the habitat of many plant species with conservation problems in our country, such as the Chilean incense-cedar (Austrocedrus chilensis) and others considered rare, such as the Guindo Santo (Eucryphia glutinosa) and the Lleuque (Prumnopytis andina).
Iglesia de Piedra Islet and Sea Lion Habitat: a santuary located on the coast of Cobquecura, in the Region of Biobio.  It consists of a group of three rock formations that emerge from the water and which are the habitat of an important sea lion population.  During low tide, a sandy road is revealed that unites the beach with the rock formations.
Hualpen Peninsula:  it is found in the coastal zone of the Region of Biobio and was categorized as a sanctuary in 1976.  It’s home to deciduous forest vegetation, with species such as peumo, boldo, lithraea and cinnamon.  Also, it’s possible to find plant species such as Queule (Gomortega keule) and Pitao (Pitavia punctata).

This zone, which contains important cliffs and rock formations, also constitutes an ideal site for marine and migratory birds to reproduce.
Rio Cruces and Chorocomayo: a wetland located in the Region of Los Rios, it was declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1981 after being categorized as the first Ramsar site in our country (keep reading for more information).  It includes the riverbeds, the islands and the zones adjacent to the Cruces and Chorocomayo rivers, extending close to 4,877 hectares.  Among its characteristic animal species we find the black-necked swan and some species of wild ducks.
Punta Pelluco Fossil Forest: it is a sanctuary since 1978 and is located on the coast of the breast of Reloncavi, in the Region of Los Lagos.  It’s main characteristic is the presence of forests of Patagonian Cypress forests that were conserved in natural form. The remains of the trunks are dispersed over more or less 50 meters of beach and can only been seen at low tide.
Patagonian Cypress located in the «Potrero de Anay», included in Chiloe National Park, the sector has important populations of Patagonian Cypress, distributed in the Piuchen mountain range.  These share their habitat with coihues, tineos, Podocarpus nubigenus and cinnamon.
Pumalin Park: located in the Region of Los Lagos, it is one of the most extensive private parks in the world.  It is characterized by its virgin environments, of great scientific and recreational interest.
Capilla de Marmol: a sanctuary that is found in the Region of Aysen, specifically in General Carrera Lake.  It’s main characteristic are the marble formations which have been created as a product of the constant erosion caused by water.  It’s possible to find numerous cavities and caves of different tonalities, according to the purity of the marble and the presence of other minerals.
Quitralco Marsh: located in the Region of Aysen, it includes water, islands and beaches adjoining the marsh, and its surface extends over 176km2.  It has a great geological value because of the presence of thermal springs on its coastal border and the activity of the neighboring Hudson volcano.

Coastal Protection

According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), multi-use Protected Marine and Coastal Areas (MPAs) are those that include water, sea floor, rocks, beaches, public beaches (including their flora and fauna) and the historic and cultural resources of their surroundings, which are protected by existing legislation and other normative mechanisms.

One of the most important conservation projects for this type of ecosystems, called “Conservación de la biodiversidad de importancia mundial a lo largo de la costa chilena” was undertaken by the Chilean government in 2003.

Thanks to the participation of national and international bodies (such as the World Wildlife Fund and the National Environment Commission), different activities to preserve the natural dynamic of different marine and coastal zones of our country were undertaken. In 2005, the following zones were declared as the first three MPAs in our country:

Isla Grande of Atacama: located in the Region of Atacama, it extends from Punta Morro to the mouth of the Copiapo River, as well as the beach land of the Chata Chica and Grande isalnds.  In regards to marine space, it extends along the zone contiguous to the described places.  It includes diverse ecosystems, such as wetlands, sandy and rocky areas, among others. 
As far as existing flora and fauna, it’s possible to observe species such as the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens), the South American grey fox (Pseudalopex griseus) and the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti).  The zone is also valued for its scientific importante, as different fossils of marine mammals have been found there.
Lafken Mapu Lahual: this area extends along almost all the coastal border of the commune of Rio Negro (Region of Los Lagos) for a little more than 30 kilometers, and includes a marine zone that extends a nautical mile out to sea from the coastline, with a total of 5,341 protected hectares.  The vegetation is Valdivian forest and is recognized as one of the most virgin (due to little human intervention). The Patagonian Cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides) is one of the most common species, while the Peale’s Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) inhabits the waters of the sector.
Francisco Coloane: located in the southern zone of our country, 180 kilometers from Punta Arenas, it extends over the Strait of Magellan and the adjacent fiords of Carlos the Third Island.  It is greatly influenced by its geographic position, receiving water from the glaciers and rivers of the zone. The biological diversity of the zone is characterized by the presence of sea lions, Magellanic cormorants and Magellanic penguins.  Also, in this sector it’s possible to sight humpback whales (which go to feed there) and sometimes, colonies of Minke whales.  Also, the zone has an enormous cultural and historical value, as the zone is home to important settlements of the Kaweskar culture.

Ramsar Sites

Wetlands are considered one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.  They consist of low lands, generally of little relief, that exist permanently or intermittently covered with water. 

They are home to an interesting biodiversity and they fulfill important functions such as controlling floods, stabilizing the erosion of banks, purifying water (they retain nutrients, sediment and contaminants) and serving as water reserves, sources of natural products, gene banks for diverse species, and other functions.

Due to their vital importance, they are recognized as one of the kinds of zones that should be protected around the planet.  For this reason, an international catalogue for their protection and management was formed in 1971, giving the name Ramsar Sites to these zones (see insert).

Chile contains nine wetlands considered Ramsar sites, which extend over a total 160,154 hectares.  These are:

Surire Saltpan: located in the Region of Arica and Parinacota, in the commune of Putre, it extends 15,858 hectares.  It has significant salt deposits that give it an intense white color.  It is a reproduction site for flamingos and other wild species, such as vicuñas and rheas.
Huasco Saltpan:  this is a high Andean wetland (located at 3,800 meters above sea level) belonging to the Region of Tarapaca.  This protected area was declared in 1996 and reaches 6,000 hectares. 
The saltpan makes up an important resting habitat for some migratory birds of the northern hemisphere (such as peregrine falcons, American golden plovers and Eurasian curlews).
Tara Saltpan: located in the Region of Antofagasta, at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, it is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve.  It makes up a protected zone of 5,443 hectares.
Soncor Hydraulic System:  located in the Region of Antofagasta, it also belongs to the Los Flamencos National Reserve.  It has 5,016 hectares and includes the Puilar, Chaxa and Barros Negros lakes.
The Santa Rosa and El Negro Francisco Lagoons: both belong to the Nevado Tres Cruces National Park in the Region of Atacama.  The protected zone reaches 62,460 hectares, recognized as an important nesting area for Andean flamingos.
Conchali Laguna:  this is a private reserve located in the Region of Coquimbo and its surface covers 34 hectares.  It’s a briny coastal lagoon that receives fresh water from an adjacent marsh.  When precipitation is intense, the lagoon transforms into an estuary.
El Yali: with a protection area that spans 520 hectares, it was declared in 1996 as an important wetland at the international level.  It’s the closest to the coast and the most important in the north and central zone of the country.  It is located in the Region of Valparaiso and is made up of dams, lagoons, marshes, rivers and river mouths.  It’s inhabited by an interesting diversity of birds.
Carlos Anwandter: recognized as the first Chilean Ramsar site, it is situated in the Region of Los Rios, north of the city of Valdivia.  It spans 4,877 hectares and in the last few years the species that inhabit it (mainly black-necked swans and wild ducks) have been under significant pressure due to the contamination of their waters.
Lomas Bay: it’s located north of the Tierra del Fuego island and opposite the Strait of Magellan, covering 58,946 hectares.  It’s notable for the large quantity of migratory birds that make this environment their natural habitat during the months of October to March.

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