Los Flamencos National Reserve
|Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos)|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Salar de Tara
|Location||Antofagasta Region, Chile|
|Nearest city||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Governing body||Corporación Nacional Forestal|
Los Flamencos National Reserve is a nature reserve located in the commune of San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta Region of northern Chile. The reserve covers a total area of 740 square kilometres (180,000 acres) or 73,986 hectares in the Central Andean dry puna ecoregion and consists of seven separate sections.
The reserve has a desert climate with the temperature varying dramatically between day and night. Rain is more frequent in summer, with an average high of 3 millimetres. The average temperature high is 24.5ºC and the average low is 17.1ºC.
Salar de Tara - Salar de Aguas Calientes
This area is made up of two salt flats: Tara at , located 120 kilometres east of San Pedro de Atacama and 440 kilometres northeast of Antofagasta, and Aguas Calientes at , reaching an altitude of up to 4,860 meters above sea level.
In 1996, Salar de Tara (Tara Salt Flat) was designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. It features both permanent and seasonal lakes. The largest of these is Tara Lake, which is fed by the Zapaleri River.
- Flora and fauna
The flora is characterized by the presence of bofedales, a kind of high altitude wetland, as well as Yellow Straw, Broom Sedge, Tola de Agua and Tola Amaia (two species of parastrephia lepidophylla), and Coirón (Festuca gracillima), which can be observed on flat and hilly terrain and on the slopes of volcanoes and hills Salar de Tara provides a habitat for various rare and endangered species of wildlife. Some, like the Southern Viscacha, Vicuña and Darwin's Rhea, are classified as endangered species. Others, such as Andean Goose, Horned Coot, Andean Gull, Puna Tinamou and the three flamingo species inhabiting in Chile (Andean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, and James's Flamingo) are considered vulnerable. The conservation status of the Tawny Tuco-tuco and the Andean Fox is unknown. The latter lives in all the sections of the reserve.
Notable wind erosion features occur in this area.
Salar de Pujsa
Salar de Pujsa is a salt flat located at  southwest of Salar de Tara, 83 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama, and northeast of Acamarachi volcano. With a maximum altitude of 4,585 metres above sea level, Pujsa is considered the most isolated section in the reserve. The salt flat receives the waters of the Quepiaco and Alitar creeks and was listed as a Ramsar site in 2009. Birds that migrate across the hemispheres use the salt flat and surrounding land as a staging area, including the Wilson's Phalarope.
- The flora and fauna
The flora found here is similar to that found in the Tara and Aguas Calientes areas, characterized by bofedales, Yellow Straw, Broom Sedge, Tola de Agua and Tola Amaia (two species of parastrephia lepidophylla), and Coirón (Festuca gracillima), which can be observed on flat and hilly terrain. The fauna includes vizcachas, chululos, Andean Foxes, Cuyos, Andean Flamingos, Chilean Flamingos, ñandúes, Andean Condors and eagles, among others.
Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons
A lava flow from an eruption of Miñiques volcano separated Laguna Miscanti from Laguna Miñiques. Located 25 kilometers south of Socaire, 115 kilometers southeast of San Pedro de Atacama and 431 kilometers east of Antofagasta, this area comprises Miscanti Lagoon at and Miñiques Lagoon at , situated in the foothills of Cerro Miscanti and the Miñiques Volcano. The lagoons have an altitude of between 4,100 and 4,350 metres above sea level. This section is close to Salar de Talar and Laguna Lejía.
- The fauna
This portion of the reserve is home to a variety of birds, including the Andean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Horned Coot, Silvery Grebe, Andean Gull and Greenish Yellow Finch. Mammals include the Vicuña, Andean Fox, and Darwin's leaf-eared mouse.
Salar de Atacama
This area is formed by two sub-sections, Soncor and Quelana. Both comprise lagoons lying over the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile at an altitude of 2,305 metres with an extensive salt crust.
The Soncor area includes the Chaxa, Puilar and Barros Negros lagoons. Despite the extreme conditions, the Salar de Atacama sustains a wide variety of species including Chilean and Andean Flamingos (the latter using it as an important nesting site), the Andean Avocet, the Yellow-billed Teal, the Crested Duck, the Puna Plover and Baird's Sandpiper. Various plant species ground around the edges of the lagoons, such as Distichlis spicata, Ephedra and Cachiyuyo (a species of the genus Atriplex), among others. The Sistema hidrológico de Soncor (Soncor hydrological system), like the Salar de Tara, is a Ramsar protected site. It comprises four shallow salt lakes.
Located 10 kilometres from the path to Chaxa lagoon, the Quelana section features extensive salt crust and saline mud. The terrain is flat with an average altitude of 2,300 metres. It shares much of the same flora and fauna of the Soncor section, including the three species of flamingos present in Chile as well as eagles, swallows, Burrowing Owls and geese.
Valle de la Luna
This section includes archaeological sites such as the village of Tulor as well as the Cordillera de la Sal mountain range, which reaches altitudes of 2,624 metres. The range was formed by the sequential folding of an old salt lake that eventually dried and was forced upwards by the movement of tectonic plates. White-bellied fat-tailed mouse opossums can be found in this area.
Tambillo contains similar fauna to the other sections of the reserve, including the Andean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Horned Coot, Silvery Grebe, Andean Gull, Greenish Yellow Finch, Grey fox, Andean Fox, Chincol (Zonotrichia capensis), swallows, and falcons.
- II región, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos www.profesorenlinea.cl retrieved June 21, 2013
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-  http://www.explore-atacama.com MONTHLY TEMPERATURE CHART OF MEDIAN HIGHTS AND LOWS Retrieved 30 June 2013
- Earth Info, earth-info.nga.mil webpage: .
- Salar de Tara Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands.
- "Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos". CONAF. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "The Annotated Ramsar List: Chile". Ramsar. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Miñiques". Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution. http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1505-102.
- San Pedro de Atacama: Queen of the Desert thisischile.cl August 02, 2011, retrieved August 11, 2013
- Soncor Basin Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands.
- Visitchile.com lagunas Miscanti Miniques data sheet www.visitchile.com retrieved June 07, 2013
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