South America, Chile, V Valparaíso, Juan Fernández archipelago, eastern part of Robinson Crusoe Island (Masatierra)
Myrceugenia fernandeziana, Drymis confertifolia
circa 5,000 ha
Juan Fernández islands over the last few million years have served as exciting laboratories of evolution - more than one hundred of endemic plant species have developed on these small islands. Unique in the world is forest on Robinson Crusoe Island - all tree species (some 20) of this small forest are endemic - growing ONLY in this forest.
The volcanic Robinson Crusoe Island rose from the depths of Pacific some 4.2 - 3.8 million years ago. It is located some 600 km from South America. The island is 9,300 ha large, the highest summit is El Yunque, 916 m.
Climate on the island is sub-tropical, mild and rainy - no wonder that the island got covered with dense vegetation. Plants arrived here occasionally - some by the streams, some were brought by occasional birds. Some plants on the island are relicts - their closer relatives were living on continents but are extinct now. Over the time here evolved numerous local species of plants.
The unique ecosystem has survived on this small islands thanks to the fact that the people came here late. Juan Fernández islands were discovered in 1574 and small settlement here was established in 1591 - 1596.
Unfortunately with the establishment of the first colony started the introduction of alien plants and animals - goats, pigs, dogs. Colonies on the island were abandoned and then again established, there were living also castaways, including Alexander Selkirk - the possible prototype of Robinson Crusoe.
Unfortunately the coming of the people brought catastrophic change to the ecosystem. Forests have been logged and burned, unknown number of unique species have been exterminated by the introduced animals and plants.
The forest was nearly intact until the early 19th century, but then logging started here. In late 19th century started intense soil erosion and islanders were forced to make forest plantations in some parts of the island to prevent the loss of soil. Unfortunately erosion prosesses continue here up to this day.
National park and research
The government of Chile declared a national park here in 1935. In 1977 islands became a UNESCO approved Biosphere Reserve.
Today Robinson Cruzoe island is recognized attraction point to many scientists. There are few other small islands in the world with that much scientific work devoted to them.
Much effort is put to preserve the unique natural heritage. 8.3 km long fence was built to prevent the cattle from entering into forest.
The biggest danger to the ecosystem of Robinson Crusoe Island is created by alien plants. Three such plants are especially dangerous to the local plants: Aristotelia chilensis, Ugni molinae and Rubus ulmifolius. It seems that this terrible trio alone could replace all the local vegetation over the next 70 years.
Extraordinary endemism on these islands makes them unique in the world, with a specific ecosystem - Juan Fernández Islands temperate forests - met only on Juan Fernández archipelago (basically - Robinson Crusoe Island). As a result Juan Fernández Islands are one of two ecological mini-hotspots in the world - another is Galapagos islands.
Robinson Crusoe Island offers fantastic scenery, with more than 600 m tall sea cliffs and magnificent mountains and ravines. The part of the island, which rises above 600 m height, is constantly shrouded in clouds - the forest there is soaked, water is dripping from the leaves constantly.
The forest in Robinson Crusoe Island is divided by the altitude zones. Tall forest (with much impact from alien species) grows in 300 - 500 m height, lower montane forests - 500 - 700 m, tree fern forests - 700 - 750 m and high brushwood on exposed cliffs - at 500 - 850 m height.
These forests are different - but all of them are composed from endemic tree species, unique in the world.
132 species of plants on Juan Fernández islands are endemic (with 1 endemic plant family and 12 endemic genes). Most of these plant species are met only on Robinson Crusoe Island. 79 species are native - but met elsewhere as well. And a huge lot - some 260 species - are introduced by man.
Amazing is the diversity of ferns - out of 53 species of local ferns 23 are endemic. Happily ferns withstand the degradation of the ecosystem much better.
Thus Robinson Crusoe Island has the highest density of endemic plants per unit of area in the world - no other oceanic island can compete in this respect.
Less impressive is the number of endemic animal species. There are known more than 230 endemic insects (e.g. Kalotermes gracilignatus), but most interesting are the birds.
Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) is a rare and endangered hummingbird, the only endemic hummingbird on oceanic island. Although the native forest is the original habitat of this beautiful bird, today they often are seen in the gardens in San Juan Bautista village.
Another endemic forest bird is Juan Fernández Tit-Tyrant (Anairetes fernandezianus).
Endemic plant species of Robinson Crusoe forest
This list is not exhaustive - there are even more endemic species of plants!
Arthropteris altescandens - fern, grows also on Masafuera island
Asplenium macrosorum - fern, also on Masafuera island
Asplenium stellatum - fern, also on Masafuera island
Azara serrata var. fernandeziana - shrub with yellow flowers
Berberis corymbosa - small shrub with yellow flowers, grows on cliffs
Blechnum cycadifolium - tree fern, also on Masafuera island, forms very dense stands.
Blechnum mochaenum - small fern, also on Masafuera island
Blechnum schottii - a beautiful fern, climber
Boehmeria excelsa - tree
Carex berteroniana - grass, also on Masafuera island
Centaurodendron dracaenoides - tree with impressive flowers
Centaurodendron palmiforme - very rare tree
Chenopodium sanctae-clara - tree, today found only on a small island next to Robinson Crusoe Island
Chusquea fernandeziana - bamboo
Colletia spartioides - grows on cliffs
Coprosma oliveri - shrub or tree
Coprosma pyrifolia - tree, also on Masafuera island
Cuminia eriantha var. eriantha - a shrub with beautiful flowers
Cuminia eriantha var. fernandezia
Cuminia fernandezia - a shrub with beautiful flowers
Dendroseris litoralis - tree. At one moment in 1980ies only 3 plants remained, still endangered. Beautiful orange flowers. Some plants are grown in local gardens.
Dendroseris pruinata - white flowers, found also on small island next to Robinson Crusoe Island
Dicksonia berteroana - tree fern, grows more than 5 m tall, mainly in upper montane forest
Drimys confertifolia - tree, also on Masafuera island. Abundant, up to 25 m tall.
Dysopsis hirsuta - herb
Elaphoglossum squamatum - one remaining
Erigeron fernandezianus - small herb, also on Masafuera island
Eryngium bupleuroides - grows on cliffs
Eryngium x fernandezianum
Fagara mayu - tree
Gunnera bracteata - enormous, up to 1.5 m tall herb with large leaves, mainly in upper montane forest.
Gunnera bracteata x peltata
Gunnera glabra - a synonym for Gunnera peltata?
Gunnera peltata - one of the most spectacular endemics on the island. This giant "rhubarb" grows up to 2 m tall and forms dense growes at the bottom of the deep ravines.
Hymenophyllum cuneatum var. rariforme - fern in upper montane forest
Hymenophyllum rugosum - fern in upper montane forest
Juania australis - Chonta Palm, the only species in genus, up to 15 m tall
Lactoris fernandeziana - small, flowering shrub, the only representative of Lactoridaceae family. Grows in cloud forest. The most exotic of the local plants.
x Margyracaena skottsbergii - a possible intergeneric cross between the local Margyricarpus diginus and introduced Acaena argentea. Possibly extinct on island, only in botanical garden in mainland Chile.
Margyricarpus digynus - small herb
Megalachne berteroana - grass, also on Masafuera island
Megalachne masafuerana - grass, also on Masafuera island
Megalastrum inaequalifolium - fern
Myrceugenia fernandeziana - dominating tree in the forest, especially in upper montane forest, up to 25 m tall.
Notholaena chilensis - small fern, also on Masafuera island
Ochagavia elegans - beautiful bromeliad, grows on exposed cliffs
Ophioglossum fernandezianum - fern
Peperomia berteroana - also on Masafuera island
Peperomia fernandeziana var. oblongifolia - herb, also on Masafuera island
Peperomia margaritifera var. margaritifera
Peperomia margaritifera var. umbraticola
Pernettya rigida - grows on cliffs
Podophorus bromoides - extinct
Polypodium intermedium subsp. intermedium - fern
Polystichum tetragonum - fern, also on Masafuera island
Pteris berteroana - fern, also on Masafuera island
Raphithamnus venustus - called - Juan Bueno. Shrub and small tree with fine lilac flowers, grows also on Masafuera island
Robinsonia berteroi - tree, the last remaining plant died in Mai 2004
Robinsonia evenia - yellow flowers
Robinsonia gayana - greenish-yellow flowers, grows on cliffs
Robinsonia gracilis - yellow flowers
Robinsonia macrocephala - possibly extinct
Robinsonia masatierrae - extinct since 1989
Rumohra berteroana - fern, also on Masafuera island
Santalum fernandezianum - became extinct due to extensive harvesting. Last seen in 1908.
Selkirkia berteroii - shrub
Serpyllopsis caespitosa - also on Masafuera island
Sophora fernandeziana var. fernandeziana
Sophora fernandeziana var. reedeana
Spergularia confertiflora var. confertiflora - small herb, also on Masafuera island
Spergularia confertiflora var. polyphylla - small herb, also on Masafuera island
Thyrsopteris elegans - tree fern, the only species in genus, grows in upper montane forest. Met on Masafuera island as well.
Trichomanes ingae - fern
Trichomanes philippianum - fern
Ugni selkirkii - shrub
Uncinia douglasii - also on Masafuera island
Urtica glomeruliflora - also on Masafuera island
Wahlenbergia berteroi - one plant also on Santa Clara Island
Wahlenbergia fernandeziana - small plant with wonderful white flowers
Wahlenbergia grahamiae - small shrub with white flowers
Wahlenbergia larrainii - possibly the same fernandeziana. Extinct in wild
Yunquea tenzii - tree, no flowers of this tree have been seen, only 23 trees known