The report states the need to incorporate the company in forest restoration in central Chile

Forests provide countless benefits to people, such as water supply, food security, their value as a recreational and cultural space, and promotion of physical, emotional and social health, among many others. However, in Chile, the multiple threats that these ecosystems suffer, due to human activity, endanger these territories and their human communities.

This is the case of the sclerophyllous forest, an ecosystem that extends between the south of the Coquimbo region and the north of the Biobío region, and which is considered a biodiversity hotspot, or priority point for planetary conservation. This is because 50% of the present vegetation grows only there and nowhere else in the world, and because this area is also highly threatened, due to the reduction of its surface due to human transformations of 64%, it is threatened by changes climate change and mega-droughts, among other factors.

This report analyzes the current situation of this ecosystem and launches an urgent appeal to restore the link between the sclerophyll forest and people, considering the current scenarios of socio-environmental vulnerability. His bet is to do it starting from transdisciplinary, socio-ecological and gender approaches, for which he also provides a series of specific recommendations.

future initiatives

In this context, Rocío Almuna, lead author of the report born of collaborative and participatory work, underlines its importance.

“We believe this paper contributes as a theoretical basis for future landscape restoration initiatives, as it develops recommendations based on three approaches needed to recover our sclerophyll forest, not only in its ecological dimension, but also in its sociocultural dimension. It contributes by challenging the separate conception of humanity and nature and recognizing the role of human communities in the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes,” he underlines.

Forests and human welfare

The document indicates that the native forests of central Chile have a central role in human well-being and great cultural significance as they are a space for the exercise of local traditional practices, for the contemplation of scenic beauty, in addition to their essential contributions to well-being human. .

“Forests store water in their soils. Its decrease and degradation, therefore, increases the vulnerability of rural communities to the current mega-drought. This threatens the supply of cities such as Santiago or Greater Valparaíso. Forest degradation has also been linked to an increased frequency and intensity of forest fires, due to the poor ability of eroded soils to store moisture.

Matías Guerrero comments in this regard: “The value of the forest and the sclerophyllous scrub is fundamental in many dimensions, and it could really be a nature-based solution when it comes to tackling relevant problems such as drought or heat waves, among other. Water supply and the presence of nutrients in the soil contribute to the production systems and water supply of both rural communities and cities. But if we continue to degrade it, we will have serious problems not only with water supply, increasing social vulnerability, especially of women, girls and boys”.

Approaches and recommendations for restoration

Considering this scenario, the paper proposes three approaches to address the challenges in sclerophyll forest restoration. The transdisciplinary approach provides for the integration and valorisation of both traditional and scientific knowledge, in order to co-design restoration plans together with local communities; use participatory methodologies for this; focus efforts on contingent and socially relevant environmental issues; and use methodologies from the environmental sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

“There is a lot of talk about local and indigenous knowledge in the context of conservation. But around the restoration there are no real participatory methodologies. However, there are many communities working in this direction and these actions should be undertaken in a more binding way to generate a truly more integrated dialogue between science and local actors,” completes Matías Guerrero.

As for the socio-ecological approach, the report recommends ensuring joint protection and sustainability of wildlife and rural livelihoods. It also requires actions that increase the adaptive capacity of socio-ecological systems to changes and disturbances and identify the particular needs of each territory, both from an ecological and socio-cultural point of view.

In relation to the gender approach, the authors of the text invite to recognize the relevance of the role of women and children in the restoration processes, and to facilitate the participation of women, viewing them as a heterogeneous group.

Matías Guerrero refers to this point: “It was very important for the team to include the gender perspective. In the context of sclerophyll forest degradation, not all people are equally vulnerable, women, girls and boys are primarily affected. This is because, generally, it is the women who provide for the fields and work in the orchards. Product of drought and degradation of this ecosystem, the contributions that nature provides us are increasingly threatened. So, if we are to talk about social vulnerability and recovery, it is essential to incorporate the gender perspective.”

The paper also mentions participatory restoration initiatives in central Chile and shares a link to a workshop where representatives of these initiatives talked about their work with communities in degraded landscapes. The expertise of these organizations was instrumental in identifying the approaches and developing the report content.

With these premises, the report hopes to add evidence and knowledge and make it available to various interested parties.

“We want this document to be read by decision makers and government authorities and contribute to future environmental initiatives promoted by public bodies. On the other hand, we try to reach out to local organizations to support the design and planning of their restoration projects,” concludes Rocío Almuna.

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