Southern Chile


  • Continent
    South America
  • Species
    Whale, Sea lion, Dolphins and porpoises, Great white shark

Flanked by snowcapped volcanoes and Andean mountain peaks, the Southern Chile region is a diverse and remarkable place. The area encompasses parts of Chile and Argentina, as well as coastal waters off the coast of Chile.

The area’s Valdivian forests—South America’s only temperate rain forest—contain some of the world’s largest and oldest trees. Only 40 percent of the estimated 35 million acres of original forest remains intact today.

The Gulf of Corcovado is the fertile feeding and nursing grounds for blue whales—the world’s largest mammal. The waters are also home to numerous other marine species, including humpback, sei and sperm whales, sea lions, seals and several dolphin species.


A corridor for blue whales, humpbacks, and more marine wildlife

Once home to a whaling station, Chile's Guafo Island now teems with biodiversity. It's a cetecean migratory hotspot and the site of a major conservation project for 10 Indigenous tribes and WWF.

A humpback whale feeds in the waters near Guafo Island, Chile


Southern Chile salmon farming

The isolated "island" quality of Southern Chile is reflected in the peculiarity of the species found here. About 50 percent of the flora is endemic—found nowhere else on Earth.

The area’s inhabitants include the endangered pudú also known as the world’s smallest deer, the magellanic woodpecker, and the opossum-like mountain monkey, considered to be a “living fossil.” Off the coast in the Gulf of Corcovado, there are 31 diverse marine mammal species and a dazzling abundance of sea birds. The region’s alerce tree can live for more than 3,000 years, making it the second longest-living organism on Earth.

People & Communities

Southern chile

Here three Pehuenche Indians are collecting Monkey-puzzle tree nuts from the forest. Monkey-puzzle trees are native evergreens to central and southern Chile and western Argentina.

Southern Chile is home to more than five million people, including indigenous groups such as the Pehuenche and Huilliche, who have lived there for thousands of years. Today, the lifestyles and local economies of many communities in the region rely heavily on the area’s native forests and marine life.

In 2007, after nearly a 20-year struggle for land rights, the Pehuenche community of the Andes range was rewarded with a grant of title to 22,000 acres of land in southern Chile. Also in 2007, the Huiliche community of Mapu Lahual received a prestigious Seal Award from Chilean president for their contribution to local development and conservation.


Salmon Farm

Salmon farming is negatively impacting fragile marine life.

Unsustainable Logging and Conversion of Habitat

Globalization and its effects are taking an extreme toll on the region's health. Weak regulatory and government enforcement capacity mean there is little defense against aggressive commercial development in the region. Unsustainable logging and conversion of habitat to plantations of pine and eucalyptus—used to create wood chips for export—have dramatically reduced native forest cover.

Negative Impacts on the Marine Environment

The expansion of industrial fishing and aquaculture activities in the Gulf of Corcovado are major threats. Over-exploitation, increased maritime traffic, trawling, and incidental bycatch all negatively impact the marine environment. Salmon farming and cultured mussel production, significant industries for Southern Chile, are negatively impacting fragile marine life. Additionally, climate change is already accelerating glacial melting and break-up in the region.

What WWF Is Doing

Monkey puzzle tree forest (Araucaria araucana) in the Andes. 9th Region (Araucanía Region), Chile

Reshaping the Salmon Industry

WWF collaborates with salmon farmers to put in place environmental and social standards that minimize the impacts of salmon farming and support economic growth opportunities for local people.

Creating a Network of Coastal and Marine Protected Areas

WWF works with a range of partners to create a marine protected area the size of Costa Rica in the Gulf of Corcovado.

Protecting Native Coastal Forests and Local Communities

WWF is helping to create a network of public and private protected areas and encouraging sustainable use of native forests.

Transforming the Forest Industry

WWF urges timber companies to establish conservation areas within forests that meet certification standards of the Forest Stewardship Council.