The Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego is an island in the southernmost portion of South America. The island is shared by Chile to the west and Argentina to the east. It is the Argentine portion which is home to Tierra del Fuego National Park, an area filled with striking landscapes, biodiversity, and features. The national park includes the southernmost Andean-Pantagonian forest, peaks and glaciers of the Andes, waterfalls, and hiking trails, as well as bays, beaches, lakes, lagoons, and rivers. Tierra del Fuego was once inhabited by the Yaghan people. But European settlers brought diseases and exploited the food sources of the Yaghan, leading to a rapid and significant decline in the Yaghan population. Tierra del Fuego National Park was designated in 1960 to protect the southernmost forests by the Beagle Channel. The park is an IUCN Category II park, meaning (in part) it is a large natural area earmarked for conservation to safeguard large-scale ecological processes. The subantarctic forest is dominated by tree species of lenga, coihue, and nire, as well as many other native and endemic plant species. The park is home to an interesting suite of biodiversity, with Patagonian and subantarctic species. Numerous bird species reside in the park, including the Magellanic woodpecker, Austral parakeet, and crested duck, as well as penguins, heron, condors, eagles, petrels, albatrosses, and many others. Some notable mammals include the guanaco, southern river otter (endangered), South American sea lion, and Andean fox. Conservation efforts have not only focused on habitat and biodiversity protection, but also on eradicating invasive species that are damaging to the island ecosystems, such as the North American beaver, muskrat, and gray fox.
Photo and haiku by: Samantha Oester