Los Alerces National Park (Argentina)

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Los Alerces National Park (Argentina)

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Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes of northern Patagonia. It contains the largest alerce forest in Argentina. Successive glaciations have molded the landscape, creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques, and clearwater lakes.

Los Alerces National Park

Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes Mountains of northern Patagonia in Argentina. It has a western boundary that coincides with the Chilean border.

The National Park has a total surface of 236,000 ha (583,000 acres), comprising several different ecosystems: the Valdivian Temperate Rain Forest, the Andean-Patagonia Forest, the High-Andean Steppe, and the Patagonian Steppe.

Los Alerces National Park was created in 1937 to protect the alerce forest and other typical flora of the Patagonian Andes. It contains the largest alerce forest in Argentina.

World Heritage Site

The National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 2017 as it is deemed vital for protecting some of the last portions of the continuous Patagonian Forest.

Its almost pristine state is the habitat for many endemic and threatened flora and fauna species, including the longest-living population of Alerce trees (Fitzroya cupressoides), a conifer endemic to South America.

Alerce is one of the longest-living trees in the world; some in the Park are around 3,000 years old, with many of them over 1,000 years old. However, the Alerce grows very slowly and belongs to the family Cupressaceae.

Successive glaciations have molded the landscape in the region, creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques, and clearwater lakes. Along with four other national parks, it comprises a part of the Andino Norpatagónica Biosphere Reserve.

The vegetation is dominated by dense temperate forests, which give way to alpine meadows higher up under the rocky Andean peaks.

Los Alerces National Park is a complex lake system with two watersheds and many rivers. The most important include the Menendez, Rivadavia, Futalaufquen, Krüger lakes, and the Frey River.

A hydroelectric dam, providing energy to industries in Puerto Madryn, has created the large artificial Lake Amutui Quimei, which empties into the Futaleufú River and flows into Chile.

The Park hosts numerous species of mammals, both indigenous and exotic, the latter significantly impacting the native species, both animals and vegetables.

Among the native mammals are two Patagonian deer: the Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) and the pudú (Pudu pudu). Unfortunately, both are endangered due to illegal hunting, the destruction and fragmentation of habitat, and the introduction of livestock and exotic species like red deer.

Several predators include the puma, huiña cat (austral spotted cat), huillín (an endangered native otter), culpeo fox, and gray fox.

Up to 126 species of birds have been listed in the National Park, including endemics of the Andean Patagonian forests, such as the Magellanic woodpecker, the chucao tapaculo, the black-throated huet-huet, the white-crested elaenia, the thorn-tailed rayadito, the Austral parakeet, and the Chilean pigeon.

Aquatic birds can be found on the lakes and rivers, such as the ashy-headed geese, great grebe, Neotropic cormorant, southern wigeon, flying steamer-duck, and torrent duck. There are also birds of prey and scavengers such as the condor, black vulture, and black-chested buzzard-eagle.

Apart from the emblematic Alerce, the mountains surrounding the Park are covered with a thick deciduous forest of the Nothofagus genus: Lengas, Ñires, and Coihues, as well as Cordilleran Cypress, another conifer.

Maniú (Sexagothaea conspicua) and the Chusquea bamboo represent the Valdivian Temperate Forest Ecoregion in the lower and humid areas.

The Arrayanes River takes its name from the hundreds of Arrayanes (Chilean myrtle) on its banks, also found on the Rivadavia River and Lake Verde banks.

The Park's climate ranges from temperate to cold and humid. In the lower altitudes, mean temperatures range from 2 °C (35.6 °F) in winter to 14 °C (57.2 °F) in summer.

Mean annual precipitation ranges from more than 3,000 mm (120 in) in the west to 800 mm (31 in) in the east, most of which is concentrated in the winter season. During the coldest months, snowfall can occasionally occur.