Like the Valdivian ecoregion, the Magellanic subpolar forests are a refuge for the Antarctic flora, and share many plant families with the temperate forest ecoregions of New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia, especially the southern beech, (Nothofagus). Species of Nothofagus, including N. betuloides, N. antarctica, and N. pumilio, are the characteristic trees of the Magellanic ecoregion. The Magellanic ecoregion does not have the same species richness as the milder Valdivian ecoregion, both on account of its colder climate and its recent glaciation. The advancing glaciers caused the forests to retreat far to the north, and the region was gradually reforested starting about 10,000 years ago when the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated.
The Magellanic ecoregion has three main plant communities: the Magellanic moorland, the evergreen Magellanic rainforest, and the deciduous Magellanic forest.
The Magellanic moorland occurs on the western edge of the region where the oceanic influence is strongest. High rainfall of 5000 mm/year (200 in/year) is typical of the moorland, as are cool temperatures, strong winds, bad drainage conditions and rocky ground with generally thin soil. Most of the moorland consists of a mosaic of low-growing plants, including dwarf shrubs and wind-sheared trees, cushion plants, grasses and mosses. These plants can form an underlayer of blanket peat and boggy areas. In more sheltered areas, small stands of evergreen forest can be found, which include Nothofagus betuloides, Drimys winteri, Lepidothamnus fonkii, and Pilgerodendron uviferum.
Further from the ocean, in more moderate areas less exposed to the oceanic wind and rain, moorland yields to evergreen Magellanic rainforest. The Magellanic rainforest is mostly made up Nothofagus betuloides, together with other evergreen trees, most often Drimys winteri and Pilgerodendron uviferum, and occasionally Embothrium coccineum and Maytenus magellanica. In the better established forest stands, a species-rich shrub layer may develop. In exposed, rocky, and poorly drained areas, pockets of deciduous Nothofagus antarctica and the typical moorland species can be found.
As one moves further east, where rainfall decreases to 800-850 mm/year (30-33 in/year), Nothofagus betuloides becomes less dominant and mixes with deciduous Nothofagus pumilio in the transition to the deciduous forest community. The Magellanic deciduous forest is made up mostly of Nothofagus pumilio and Nothofagus antarctica. When one reaches the drier rain shadow east of the mountains, the forests disappear, transitioning to the grassland ecoregions of Patagonia.
These forests are peerless in their endurance of cold summers (averaging 9 degrees Celsius at sea level) and violent subpolar winds. Due to these traits, Magellanic forests' plant species are exported to other parts of the world with similar conditions where the native vegetation cannot grow, such as the Faroe Islands and neighboring archipelagos. The following species from Tierra del Fuego: Drimys winteri, Nothofagus antarctica, Nothofagus pumilio, and Nothofagus betuloides, were successfully introduced to Faroe. As a general rule, Fueguian trees show better signs of acclimation than those from Northern Europe to conditions in Faroe.
The Magellanic subpolar forests are home to the Southern Pudu, the world's smallest deer, which stands only 35-45 cm (14-18 inches) high at the shoulder. Other animal species include the Cougar (Puma concolor) and the endangered Southern River Otter (Lontra provocax). Endemic rodents include the Patagonian rat, the mole mouse, and the viscacha, a small rodent that looks almost like a rabbit with a long, bushy tail.
Native bird species include the Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus), Patagonian Sierra-finch (Phrygilus patagonicus), Patagonian Mockingbird (Mimus patagonicus), and Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus).