Current and potential distribution areas for Nothofagus alessandrii, an endangeredtree species from central Chile
Nothofagus alessandrii ("ruil") is an endangered species native to the Maule Coastal Forest of central Chile. Previous studies have demonstrated that the current distribution of this species and rates of deforestation and fragmentation present a serious threat to the species. To address this threat, spatial and temporal variation in remnant "ruil" forest cover was analyzed for the period from 1991 to 2008. Using aerial photography and geomatic tools, the state of "ruil" forests cover in 1991 was compared to the "ruil" forests cover in 2008 and with this information, the potential distribution area of this species was calculated. The results demonstrate that the current area of "ruil" forest is approximately 314 ha, with a net loss of 42 ha (12% of the forested area) over the 17-year study period. The annual deforestation rate for "ruil" during this period was 0.74%, a value that is significantly lower than that reported just two decades ago. Taken together with the fact that the majority of "ruil" forests belong to large private companies, with an additional 15% protected by the Chilean government, the conservation status of "ruil" forest has become less critical, at least in the short term. In addition, the habitat model from this study showed that there is a large area of 9,841 ha within which "ruil" forests could be greatly expanded through active forest restoration.