FOREST LOSS AND FRAGMENTATION are affecting the temperate forests of southern South America at an increasing rate (Armesto et al. 1998). A large portion (about 30 million acres [12 million ha]) of these Nothofagus species–dominated forests includes several national parks in Chile and Argentina (fig. 1, below). Most of these protected areas lack management plans or have old plans under reevaluation in light of new biological information and theoretical framework changes, as focus shifts from single-species management to ecosystem management. For this task, resource managers need information on the biology of species that (1) are threatened, (2) are indicators of particular forest conditions, (3) are highly appealing (“flagship”), (4) generate key habitat structures or resources (“keystone”), or (5) require large territories such that their protection ensures the preservation of many other organisms (“umbrella”).
Figure 1. Magellanic woodpeckers (top) rely heavily on Nothofagus, or southern beech, forests of southern Chile and Argentina (above), making little use of tree species in other genera. Two Nothofagus species are dominant in Nahuel Huapi National Park: N. dobeyi, a large, evergreen form found in wetter areas and valleys that grows to a height of 148 ft (45 m); and the deciduous N. pumilio, which adopts a shrub form at upper tree line, but attains heights of 100 ft (30 m) on moderate slopes.
Some species display several of these characteristics, and knowledge of such species is of major importance in park planning and management. The Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) represents a good model species to demonstrate the role of ecosystem management in park planning. My dissertation research (2000–2006) was based at Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina (fig. 2), but applicable to forest management within and adjacent to preserves in northwestern Patagonia and elsewhere.
“[Its] role as a keystone species in creating cavity habitat for other species was suspected....but the most basic information on its natural history was lacking.”
Ojeda, V. 2009. Management strategies for keystone bird species: The Magellanic woodpecker in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina. Park Science 26(1):27–30.
Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/ParkScience/archive/PDF/Article_PDFs/ParkScience26(1)Spring2009_27-30_Ojeda_2614.pdf.