Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Forests Nephi Mentioned Around their Landing Site

When Lehi landed in the Land of Promise, the family immediately set up their tents (1 Nephi 18:23), then tilled the ground and planted all the seeds they brought from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24).

Elqui Valley adjacent to La Serena and Coquimbo where Lehi and his family landed and tilled the ground and planted all the seeds brought from Jerusalem


The zemi-arid Elqui Valley has a Mediterranean Climate as does La Serena and Coquimbo, where the seeds from Jerusalem would have grown exceedingly. In fact, surrounded by mountains and a vast, hash desert, most people describe entering Elqui Valley is like entering another world. This pocket of land anciently was lush with greenery that today is filled with orchards and grape vines under some of the clearest skies found on Earth. Due to the Valley’s remote location, high elevation and rain-free climate, whose water is predominantly fed through snowmelt over the October-January season, it is continually short of water today. With a desert climate in the north and the closeness of the fertile land of the central valley, it originally had plenty of water, with Lehi’s original settlement fed by the Elqui river. Today, grapes are grown to produce amazing wines and piscos, all around the towns of La Serena and Coquimbo.

After planting, Nephi and some of the others began to explore their new home and traveled around the area and outward, astounded by what they found. As Nephi wrote: “We did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (1 Nephi 18:25, emphasis added).

The forest around La Serena ran from above La Serena to south of Santiago


All around La Serena and Coquimbo were rainforests that grew in the middle of a coastal desert area, almost 800 miles from its normal habitat. The Chilean rainforest along the coast, ran from north of La Serena southward to beyond Santiago, a distance of 600 miles, and inland for several miles.

These forests have at least five tree species indigenous to that area. As an example, the Valdivian forest of Chile is a multiple ecosystem in the immense Fray Jorge National Park along Route 5 in La Serena, Chile, and includes Valdivian forests overflowing with ferns and cinnamon trees, and is home to the majestic Alerce tree, which can reach heights of 377 feet, and live for more than 3000 years, along with a variety of species including eagles, pumas and guanacos (wild parent of the llama).

This temperate rainforest, which begins today inland from the bay at Coquimbo (though the entrance to the park is further), covers approximately 103,301 square miles (of which 70% lies within Chile), and is the second largest of five temperate rainforests in the world and the only one in South America—which only shows how exact La Serena matches the scriptural record of Lehi’s landing site. Incidentally, of the estimated 87,687 square miles of original forest existing at the time of European contact, only about 40% remains today, suggesting it might have been even larger in 600 B.C.

Top: The rainforest at La Serena, Chile in the Coquimbo Region; Bottom: The wilderness stretching for miles north, south, and east of La Serena


Remember what Nephi said: “…we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind…” (1 Nephi 18:25). Well, La Serena has a very large forest, unbelievably dense with 350-foot tall trees, and animals of every kind, which is a very interesting parallel to the scriptural record.

It was Sabine Henders, Ph.D in Environmental Science at the Thünen Institute of Forest Ecosystems, Eberswalde Germany, who said for an opening statement, “truth and reason,” that while truth is reason, reason is not always truth, and that “just because something seems logical and reasonable given the known facts, and our reasoning and logic assures our limited academic mentalities of such as truth; when given all the facts of which we are totally unaware, we may be actually dead wrong as to the real truth of the matter” (Sabine Henders, et al, “Trading Forests,” Environmental Research Letters, vol.10, no.12, IOP Publishing Ltd., U.K., 22 December 2015).

For those unaware, the 30º south latitude of Chile is home to the second largest temperate rainforest in the world, and the most biologically diverse, as well as some distinctive local trees found only in small pockets in the country’s unique ecosystem. According to Chile’s forestry service, the National Forest Corporation or Conaf, today about 18% of the country is covered by native forest, with much more having existed before man arrived. In fact, a beautiful, fast-growing hardwood endemic to central Chilean forests—an area adjacent to Lehi’s landing site—called the canelo (Drimys winteri), voigue, boigh or fuñe, an evergreen tree whose height of 100 feet, whose bark, leaves and roots have medicinal properties, including a source for essential oils, and also is used as an effective pesticide, is sacred to Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche—a people who date back to 500 BC (Sandra Rodriguez (Technological Background of Canelo, Institute of Forest Products Technology, Bosque, vol.19, no.1, 1998, pp91-99). 

Left: The Drimys tree; Center: The leaves, buds and flowers; Right: The bark of the tree


According to Claudio Donoso, Department of Silviculture (growing and cultivation of trees), Faculty of Forest Sciences, Austral University of Chile, the bark of the species is smooth and light gray, however the cinnamon adults from Coquimbo regions have brown bark and concretions similar to warts, which in some cases are very abundant. The gap in its geographical distribution and the finding of notable differences in the morphology of the outer layer of tissue immediately below the epidermis of a stem or root (Claudio Donoso, The tree species of the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina,” 2nd Edition, Marisa Cuneo editions Publishers, 2013, pp221-233).

This brings to mind Alma’s comment: “because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases” (Alma 46:40, emphasis added).

It might be of interest that when Sir Francis Drake sailed round the world in 1577-80, when rounding Cape Horn of South America, one of his ships developed sickness on board, and they sent a boat ashore to search out medicinal herbs. They returned to England in 1579 with a supply of Drimys bark, and for centuries before vitamin C was isolated, "Winter's Bark" was esteemed as a preventive and remedy for scurvy (Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories, 1964).

Captain Cook and one of his accompanying vessels, the Elizabeth, rounding Cape Horn of South America


In fact, Captain Cook later used the same bark tea for his sailors on his voyages of discovery between 1770-75, providing them with vitamin C and enabling Cook to stay at sea for years, circumnavigating the globe, and exploring Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and other lands.

In addition, the Drimys tree around La Serena and Coquimbo comprise important elements in its bark which is used as a spice similar to cinnamon in the regions. The tree is abundantly found in the forests that surround the area of Lehi’s landing, which land is full of forests and trees.

As to the Mediterranean Climate of this area, Chile is one of the fastest rising fruit exporters in the world, more than a $4-billion industry, exporting millions of tons of apples, cherries, nuts, avocados, and blueberries; along with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa and Peru supply about 50% of the non-banana fruit imported into the U.S. annually. In fact, much of the Western U.S. winter fruit comes from this area in Chile, centered in the La Serena area and a climate that grows most any fruit.

When Nephi described that “as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (Nephi 18:24). Note specifically the word “forests” in the plural; beasts in the forests; and all manner of wild animals.

Top: A savannah; Bottom: A rainforest. Note the different habitats that would draw different animals. If the area is large enough, both domestic and wild beasts could occupy it together


Now domestic and wild beasts are not usually found together in a combined area since wild beasts are typically predators, unless the area covers both wilderness flatlands (savannahs or grasslands) and large, thick forests (tropical forests), and an overall area of thousands of square miles as found in Africa. South America, as an example, has far more tree per hectare than most other places on the planet. Savannas maintain an open canopy despite a high tree density. It is often believed that savannas feature widely spaced, scattered trees; however, in many savannas, tree densities are higher and trees are more regularly spaced than in forests. The South American savanna types in some areas, typically have densities of trees similar to or higher than that found in South American tropical forests, with savanna ranging from 800–3300 trees per hectare, and adjacent forests with 800–2000 trees per hectare. Similarly Guinean savanna has 129 trees/ha, compared to 103 for riparian forests. Many forests average tree densities only 100 per trees per hectare, comparable to savannas in the same region.

Savannas are also characterized by seasonal water availability, with the majority of rainfall confined to one season; they are frequently in a traditional zone between forest and desert or grassland, and cover approximately 20% of the Earth’s land area.

The point is, when forests are stated, we need to recognize what is meant, since forests are varied, so additional explanation is often essential. Thus, Nephi tells us that the forests around their landing site were large since they contained domestic and wild animals. The rainforests of Chile best fit that description.

No comments:

Post a Comment