Chile spans 4,270km from its northern desert to its southern glaciers. As a result, it is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna with 30,000 species endemic to the country. From thriving grasslands to the world’s driest desert and thick evergreen forests, Chile’s rich biodiversity has laid down the foundation of its unique culture and traditions. In today’s Foundations of Chile: the vineyards and valleys.
The central regions of Chile are home to most of Chile’s population and have subsequently become important areas of heritage. As the arid Atacama ends in Coquimbo region, the Chilean matorral takes over; low-lying scrubland with areas of Mediterranean forest. Key highlights of this area are Cajón del Maipo and the Vineyards of the Metropolitan region, where Chile’s world-famous wine is produced.
Central Chile is classed as a neotropical ecozone, typically with hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters, although a decade-long mega-drought has changed this a bit. The climate is akin to that of the Mediterranean, with a season of drought in the hot months exacerbated by the Humboldt current and the rain shadow created by the Andes mountains. A mixture of Mediterranean forest, low-lying shrubland, and matorral are found in these areas, which has allowed for a huge diversity of flora and fauna, 95% of which are endemic to Chile.
Flora and Fauna
Three types of matorral are found in the central region of Chile; arid, thorny, and sclerophyllous. Common flora of the area includes the coastal daisy, wild Fuchsia, maquis berry and the carob plant. The maquis berry is native to Chile and has many health benefits that have been used in indigenous Mapuche medicine for years. There are also seven species of endemic birds found in this region, such as the slender-billed parakeet.
Cajón de Maipo is an important area of biodiversity for central Chile. The Maipo river and the Embalse de Yeso, a glacial lake, create the perfect habitat for a vast range of birds, mammals, and plants. An estimated 450 species of flora and flora live in the Cajón, of which 400 are endemic to Chile.
The Elixir of Chile
The central region of Chile is most famous for its vineyards in the Metropolitan region. The low-lying scrublands and hot summer months, similar to California’s climate, provide the perfect conditions for growing grapevines. Spanish conquistadores first brought grapevines to the region in the 16th century when wine was grown for personal consumption. More exotic French wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère were brought to the country in the mid-19th Century as the country began to export its produce. The Concha y Toro Vineyard on the outskirts of Santiago now exports its wine to over 130 countries.
The wine industry has become a key part of Chile’s culture, with the annual Grape Harvest Festival attracting thousands of tourists from across the world. From March, towns across central Chile commence the celebrations as they harvest the grapes to make wine. Notable festivals include the Colchagua Valley Festival, the Curicó Valley festival, and the Casablanca Valley Festival.
The roots of Chile’s Grape Harvest festivals and a large proportion of its endemic flora and fauna species can be found in the rolling hills and valleys of central Chile. With its unique ecosystem and colonial history, this region is an important pillar of Chilean heritage and the foundation of many of its cultural traditions.
Katie is a student from Exeter University where she is studying English Literature and Spanish. This year she is interning with Chile Today as part of her year abroad in Latin America. She believes in the importance of a global newsroom which spreads the news of the world to every corner and gives voice to the people.