Our local partner in Chile, the Laboratorio de Invasiones Biológicas (LIB), has a very important task at hand: understanding and managing the problem of invasive species in Chile and the Andes, a problem that is almost nowhere in the world as bad as it is in the region around Concepcíon. Visiting the group, the area and the important work they are doing served as a real eye-opener to me, showing the situation in the field behind all the data I have seen: oh, how rapid and impactfull the spread of invasive species can be!
We were lucky enough to have time for a short visit to one of their study sites in National Park Malalcahuello, where they are battling a rapid expansion of lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta) into and beyond the native Araucaria-forests (see my previous post for more details on the Araucaria). The pines are spreading rapidly since some small plantations have been planted in the national park in the 70s, and now cover an area of over 100 hectares with their dense green needle-rich branches.
The LIB is working hard to understand the nature of these invasions, their impacts on the system, and the possibility of managing them. And all of that is urgently needed, as the pines are found to be highly resistant, and highly effective invaders.
The LIB is monitoring the long-term effects of different management strategies on the abiotic conditions and the biodiversity in the park, and following up on recovery of the native diversity (or new pine seedlings) after pine removal for restoration purposes.
A very important project to keep track off, and I hope to be able to report here on the main outcomes of this study and its high conservation importance!