Aboreal Carcasses

Katherine Darrow treks through a burned forest in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile on Dec. 11, 2013. About 125 square miles of land were burned in a forest fire started by a campfire in December 2011.

Katherine Darrow treks through a burned forest in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile on Dec. 11, 2013. About 125 square miles of land were burned in a forest fire started by a campfire in December 2011.

One of the strangest landscapes in Patagonia are the forests of tree skeletons. The burned bark of the beech tree known as the lenga in Chile (Nothofagus pumilio) turns white after the black char has weathered off, making them appear even more like bones. Fires are strictly prohibited in National Parks in Chile, partly due to the catastrophic forest fires that have burned through Torres del Paine National Park. The most recent fire was in 2011 when the flame from burnt toilet paper blew out of control in the strong wind that is characteristic of the area. The forests are slowly returning, and the pioneer species that carpet the land soon after the fire keep the ground green. For now, the aboreal carcasses remind any hikers or climbers not to start fires in the area.

Tree skeletons from a forest fire in 2011 spread across the landscape in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The fierce and constant wind in the area makes any fire a potential hazard.

Tree skeletons from a forest fire in 2011 spread across the landscape in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The fierce and constant wind in the area makes any fire a potential hazard.

Zac Cobb, left, and Connor Watumull dash through a section of burned forest in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.

Zac Cobb, left, and Connor Watumull dash through a section of forest killed by a debris flow in French Valley of Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.

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