9 junio, 2024

Southern zone of Chile: what it is, climate, flora, fauna, economy, gastronomy

What is the southern zone of Chile?

The southern zone of Chile It is one of the five zones into which the Chilean territory is divided, located between the 38th parallel of South Latitude to the Los Lagos Region. It comprises a wide territory, in which the Aysén region, whose capital is Coihaique, and the Magallanes and Antarctic region, capital Punta Arenas, are located.

In this part of the Chilean geography, cold and rainy climates predominate, and the sky is permanently cloudy. High rainfall is derived from the clash of cold air masses originating in Antarctica with warm air masses coming from the temperate zone.

It is the least inhabited area of ​​the country, with only approximately 242,320 inhabitants, and has an area of ​​219,914 km², not including the Chilean Antarctic Territory. The main cities in the southern zone are: Coihaique, Puerto Aysén, Chaitén, Puerto Natales, Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas.

The southern zone shows a very peculiar characteristic in its relief that differentiates it from the rest of Chile, and it is the complete disappearance of the coastal plain as well as the intermediate depression. It extends from the island of Chiloé to the Diego Ramírez islands in Cape Horn.

In this part of southern Chile, only some traces of the intermediate depression can be seen, which is common in the rest of the country’s territory. A large part of the journey through this area must be done by boat, since it is a very divided territory between islands and channels.

In the southern zone the following reliefs are observed: the Andes mountain range, the intermediate zone, the fjords, the lakes, the glaciers, the Patagonian steppe and the zone of islands (archipelago) and channels.

Climate of the Chilean southern zone

Its climate is predominantly temperate, humid and rainy, and has an oceanic influence. It has an average annual temperature of 8ºC, with a maximum of 12ºC and a minimum of between 4 and 0ºC. However, due to the presence of strong and cold winds, the icy thermal sensation is greater than that registered in the thermometers.

The humid and cold climate is common throughout the year, with abundant rainfall of between 500 and 3,000 mm, depending on the area. The cold semi-arid climate occurs exceptionally on the eastern slope of the Andes mountain range (called the Patagonian mountain range) because it is located on the leeward slope.

In the rest of the southern zone the climate varies according to the region. For example, in the coastal part, which extends from the Guayaneco archipelago to Cape Horn, the weather is rainy and with strong stormy winds.

On the other hand, in the continental territory (Puerto Chabuco and Puerto Aysén) the climate varies. There are also abundant rains, but they have average temperatures, while in the North and South Ice Fields, temperatures are permanently below 0ºC all year round.

Flora

The flora of the southern zone is scarce but in some spaces there are large trees, such as oaks, araucarias and others, such as lengas, cypresses and mañíos. These are the most common or characteristic species of the southern zone:

cypresses

These perennial coniferous plants grow in this area and in south-central Chile. They are leafy trees that have dark brown-gray bark and have large surface cracks.

They have horizontally flattened branches that differentiate it from other trees and give it its characteristic appearance.

Oak trees

They are tall trees that can reach 45 meters in height, with a diameter of up to 2 meters in their adult state. They have dark pink colors or light colors, depending on the age of the wood.

coigues

The trees of this species, also called coihue or oak, are perennial and grow in central and southern Chile.

lengas

They are a kind of tree with characteristics similar to the coigüe, which in its adulthood can reach 25 meters high and one meter in diameter. In Patagonia this tree is low in height, more like a medium shrub.

giant fern

These tree ferns typical of this area reach up to 1.5 meters high and grow in humid and shady or semi-shady places, up to an altitude of about 2,000 m. They are called katalapi after the Katalapi Park, one of the places in Chile where they grow.

Araucaria

They are very slow-growing trees like the previous ones, and of great size as well. They have a smooth and straight trunk, whose branches acquire the shape of a mushroom or mushroom. Its leaves are very hard, with small thorns at the tip from which reddish seeds sprout.

Larch

This species of large trees can reach up to 50 meters in height. It has a pyramidal shape due to the irregularity of its leaves.

manios

They are endemic species of conifers that grow in the temperate forests of the south of the country. These pines have a trunk that branches out from near the base and its crown becomes pyramidal in shape as well.

caulking

It is a small shrub about 2 meters high that grows in Patagonia.

Fauna

The southern fauna is varied and abundant, especially marine fauna.

mammals

huemul

Also called Andean deer, it is an emblematic animal of Chile that lives in areas with heights between 450 and 1,300 meters. It is a large deer that can reach up to 1.60 m tall, with large ears and horns (only the males). The fur is gray with yellowish or lighter spots, although it varies according to the season.

Cougar

It is an endangered feline that feeds on smaller animals, such as guanucos and birds. Its weight is about 70-80 kilos and can measure up to 2.8 m.

birthday fox

This species is found mainly in Punta Arenas, where they can be seen in broad daylight. They have yellowish skin, with a long tail that usually ends in black fur. It feeds on hares, lambs, lizards and rodents.

Ferret

The ferret in this area is a mixture of a porcupine and a skunk, with a small and elongated body, flat feet and a stinky smell. It is gray on the back and black, usually on the underside. It has a short tail and on its forehead it has a strip of white hair.

guanucos

The guanuco, or lama guanicoe, is a mammal of the camelid family, native to South America. It is a wild animal with a height of approximately 1.60 meters and weighs about 90 kg.

Cururo

It is a common animal in the Magallanes region, which has a great resemblance to an otter or a large rodent with small ears. It lives in the water and feeds mainly on fish. Its fur is dark and it has large claws and teeth.

pudu

It is a small 40 cm tall deer weighing about 10 kg. It is a herbivorous animal with small, round horns, which has white spots on its back and legs.

Birds

Among the most representative birds of the southern zone are the condor of the Andes, the rhea, the kingfisher, the caranca, the chachaña parrot and the imperial cormorant.

Marine animals

It is also very abundant and is made up mainly of penguins, elephant seals, seals, whales and a wide variety of fish.

Natural resources

The southern zone is very rich in water and energy resources, since the country’s largest oil, gas and coal reserves are located there.

Due to its location, this area also has an immense wealth in terms of fishing resources, made up of fish, shellfish and molluscs. Likewise, it has immense forest resources.

indigenous groups

The Chilean southern territory was historically inhabited by numerous indigenous peoples, from the island of Chiloé to Cape Horn, who, throughout the 19th century, practically disappeared. These peoples were: Chonos, Yámanas, Kawéskar, Aónikenk and Selk’nam.

chonos

This culture inhabited the islands of the Chiloé archipelago and the Taita peninsula.

yámanas

They were the ancestral inhabitants of the islands located to the south of Tierra del Fuego.

Kawéskar

They occupied the territories located between the Gulf of Penas and the Strait of Magellan. It is one of the few towns in this area that still survives, although badly decimated.

aonikenk

This people inhabited the territories located between the Santa Cruz river (border with Argentina) and the Strait of Magellan.

Selk’nam

They were a hunter-gatherer people who settled on the plains of Tierra del Fuego.

Economy

The economic activity of the southern zone is based on the exploitation of its rich mining potential (oil, coal and gas), fishing, forestry and agriculture.

The characteristics of the climate and soils prevent this area from having a greater agricultural activity. On the other hand, the mining-extractive activity is very important for the whole country due to the important mineral deposits in its subsoil.

Hydrocarbon exploitation is carried out on the continent as well as on the continental shelf of the Strait of Magellan. In the Magallanes region (Riesco Island) there are significant coal reserves for open-pit exploitation.

In the coastal area there is a thriving activity of artisanal and industrial fishing, with large vessels on the high seas. This area has a highly developed fishing industry that makes a significant contribution to the national GDP by taking advantage of the demersal (hake), pelagic (southern sardine) and benthic (sole) resources of its waters.

Salmon farming, together with the extraction of king crabs, sea urchins, clams and other mollusks in the Aysén and Magallanes regions, are relevant activities for the economy of the southern zone.

Forest exploitation and tourism

Despite being an area with significant forestry potential, low temperatures and difficult transportation have prevented this industry from developing further. However, this situation could change in the coming years, with the increase in temperatures expected in the grasslands of the Aysén region.

Another very profitable activity in the southern zone is tourism, which has experienced significant growth in recent years, as well as horse, sheep and cattle breeding. More than 50% of the country’s bovine herd is found in this area, from where wool and bovine and ovine meat are exported.

Typical meals

The typical foods of this area have a great influence from the Hispanic and Mapuche cuisines. Among the main dishes of southern cuisine are:

the curanto

It is an ancient method of steaming with a certain touch of smoked seafood or fish in the open air. It originates from the Chiloé islands and is based on the use of hot stones that are buried in a hole.

Food previously prepared and sealed using pangue leaves that are covered with earth are placed on them.

the chapaleles

They are rolls prepared with a dough of wheat flour and boiled potatoes, sweet or salty according to taste.

the milcao

The milcao or melcao is part of the typical traditional cuisine of Chiloé and was incorporated into Patagonian cuisine, where it arrived in the second half of the 19th century.

It consists of a fried dough that is prepared with a part of cooked and ground potato and another part of grated potato with a sweet flavor. It is also prepared in curanto and chicharrones de chancho (pork) is added.

The pan…

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