Wildfires Endanger UNESCO Alerces Park in Argentina

Since January 25th, a segment of Argentina’s expansive Los Alerces National Park, named after the indigenous Fitzroya tree, also known as the Patagonian cypress, with towering heights of up to 60 meters, has been ablaze.

An alerce tree near Lake Menéndez (By littletroll, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54621668)

The park stands as a notable site for the southern province of Chubut. In 2017, the 250,000-hectare Andean Patagonian forest, which houses the revered “Grandfather,” a tree aged at 2,620 years, earned recognition on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Over 3,000 hectares have succumbed to the flames, with half of the devastation occurring within the boundaries of the national park and the remainder in a neighbouring area of the Chubut province. As of Sunday 4 February, ten days after the inferno, the fire became uncontrollable, requiring the intervention of over 260 firefighters. Despite their efforts, the outlook remained bleak as temperatures continued to rise, accompanied by intensifying winds. The fire is suspected to be the result of arson. Overall, forest fires appear to pose an increasing risk to cultural heritage.