Formerly Tierra del Fuego was the name given to the lands south of the Straits of Magellan, no matter how far south those lands could reach. Nowadays the name is applied to the archipelago formed by a main island and hundreds of lesser isles around south to Cape Horn and east to Staten Island. The name is used in Argentina and Chile, since the islands are a shared territory. The Chilean side consists mainly of lonely sheep ranches, and a trackless area of forests, lakes and mountains with no name. Porvenir, an old gold mining site is the provincial capital. The main island of Tierra del Fuego is the largest one in Southamerica. It is situated south of the Straits of Magellan and has a total area of about 45,000 km2. The Argentine east side and the Chilean west side are divided by the imaginary line defined by the meridian 68º 36´. When arriving at the Beagle channel, the boundary turns east and continues all along the channel which defines as Chilean territory all the islands to the south, including Hoste, Navarino, Picton, Lennox, Nueva, Cape Horn and many other islands. The northern area of the island are “pampas” (flat land) which are part of the Magellanic steppe. The infinite plains are dominated by the grassland (Festucaspp.) interrupted by small patches of shrubs (Chilliotricum diffussum and Lepidophylum cupressiforme). Here sheep and cattle find the best conditions to graze, mainly along the streams where they find “vegas” (mesic grassland) with high quality pastures. It is possible to find in this area some representatives of our wildlife such as guanacoes, foxes and many bird species. Migratory shorebirds from the Arctic come here to spend their non-breeding season- The area, in the middle of the island is called the “parque fueguino” (Fuegian park) because it combines both the grassland from the northern plains and the forest of the southern mountains. Going south the topography starts to get hilly and some patches of forest start to appear, mixed with some fresh water ponds, lakes and streams. The most common species of tree here is the low deciduous beech tree or ñire (Nothofagus antarctica) among small valleys taken up by peat bogs. This is an area where guanacoes and foxes may also be seen but beaver dams become more conspicuous, through their effect in the landscape. The great natural barrier between the north and the south of Tierra del Fuego is the magnificent Lake Fagnano, the largest body of fresh water in a wide valley eroded by glaciers. A forest rules the vegetation in this area. The most abundant trees are high deciduous beech trees or lenga (N. pumilio) with some patches of evergreen beech trees or guindo (N. betuloides) and very few ñires, described above. They alternate with some forest clearings with bushes such as the calafate (Berberis buxifolia) and the already mentioned mata negra. All along the wider and deeper valleys lay the large Sphagnum peat lands and some of the hanging valleys still hold the remaining glaciers of the last glaciation, which covered most of these mountains and valleys some thousand years ago. Some mountains rise to 1,500 m a.s.l., and the treeline is easily identified at about 650 m a.s.l.

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