Dunes and wetlands of Putú: Nature Sanctuary

The town of Putú is located next to one of the most amazing landscapes of Chile. Located north of the mouth of the Maule River, in the vicinity of this town is the landscape more like the Sahara desert than one can imagine. The dunes of Putú form the most extensive grouping of these that can be found in Chile. Formed by the action of the Maule River and the marine currents, this huge dune field never ceases to surprise anyone with its surreal views.

With an extension of about 32km along the coast, they separate the beach from an interesting network of wetlands that have formed in the sector. Due to the natural barrier that these huge dunes mean, the vast majority of estuaries and small rivers in the area can not reach the sea and instead make up an extensive network of wetlands, a perfect habitat for the varied birdlife that has established in this place. Unfortunately this extraordinary place does not have any protection and has been threatened by mining projects and is frequented by 4×4 vehicles whose drivers are rarely careful of the natural environment.

The dune complex covers more than 14,000 HA. The dunes are the product of sedimentation of volcanic origin dragged for centuries by rivers and deposited in the Pacific Ocean. Later they emerge and accumulate in the form of dunes by the predominant current of Humboldt and the South West wind characteristic of the area.

  • The wetlands are sources of life, which are water reservoirs, which come mainly from water courses that originate in the coastal mountain range. They cover more than 2000 hectares and have been identified more than 120 species of birds between residents and migrants according to the data obtained from Censuses registered in the E-Bird platform, and also houses the last orchid described for Chile (Bippinula Gabrieli). The wetlands are part of the circuit of migratory birds of International Importance as IBAs – Bird Life International sites.

The area contains a valuable biodiversity, scarce nationally and globally, with some endemic species in conservation status, threatened by anthropogenic activities. It emphasizes the presence of endemic species of bees and a new species of orchid (Bipinnula Gabriel).

The terrestrial ecosystem present in the area – the coastal Mediterranean sclerophyllous lithrea of ​​Lithrea caustica and Azara integrifolia – has a very low level of protection at the national level.

In the area 7 species of birds have been registered that are classified in national conservation categories and 2 of them are in danger: Raven of the swamp (Plegadis chií) and Coscoroba (Coscoroba coscoroba).

With respect to the flora present in the area, 27 species have been registered, grouped into 19 families, according to the taxonomic distribution, of which 13 species are of native origin, representing 48% of the total. An important contribution from the floristic point of view for the Putú area is the discovery of a new orchid species for Chile, the Bipinnula Gabriel species.

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