PROJECT: ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION OF DEGRADED SITES OF THE COPAHUE PROVINCIAL PARK
General Objective: Ecologically rehabilitate degraded shrub-herbaceous steppe sites with Araucaria araucana forest (Pehuén) through erosion control techniques and planting of native tree and shrub species with social participation of local actors.
Rehabilitate sectors of dispensable secondary roads, roads destroyed by erosion, aggregate extraction sites without subsequent treatment of the quarries, works in which no attempt was made to minimize the environmental impact, areas affected by livestock overload
Implement a social program that includes strengthening institutional and educational capacities for various audiences
The project has a duration of 3 years, from May 1, 2018 to May 21, 2021.
The project to be developed in the Copahue Provincial Park will start from an analysis of the level of degradation of the sites to be restored and the disturbance factors to determine the location of the priority sites for rehabilitation. Based on this information, the first objective will be to control the disturbance factors: erosion and livestock.
A second objective of the project will be to enrich the degraded sites in year 1 with native vegetation with 12,500 Araucaria araucana seedlings of Caviahue-Copahue genetic origin (250 plants / ha). This plantation will be complemented with direct sowing of 600 seeds / ha of the same species.
The third objective or line of action will be to strengthen the capacity of the Puel nursery for the production in year 2 of another 12,500 Araucaria plants and Adesmia ssp species. (N-fixing colonizers and with local use), Ephedra frustillata (erosion-controlling shrub and with local use), and other species to be determined in the initial analysis of the reference ecosystem and interests of local inhabitants.
In parallel, sustainability will be established from: (a) dialogue of knowledge: start-up workshop with residents and local technicians, (b) strengthening institutional capacities: on restoration with provincial technicians and local school, (c) communication: technical reports, publications and posters on educational trails and establishment of planned tours for tourists.
Actors of the project:
Municipality of Caviahue-Copahue
From the scientific-technical sector: National University of Comahue. Faculty of Environmental and Health Sciences. LARREA in collaboration with the National University of Sao Paulo and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Neuquén forestry technical staff
Caviahue-Copahue School Teachers
Ski & Mountain Center Compañía de los Andes SA in Copahue Provincial Park
Local livestock producers.
Araucaria producers artisans.
The ecosystem in the intervention area consists of a mosaic of shrub-herbaceous steppe with Araucaria araucana (pehuén) forest, which develops on slopes and rocky outcrops below 1,800 m asl, often accompanied by understory of Nothofagus antarctica ( ñire). The environmental conditions include long periods of snowfall, strong winds, as well as disturbances due to increasing anthropic use. The area is used as a transit site to summer fields in the Andes mountain range and is intensively used by tourists who usually travel with off-road vehicles or horses. As a consequence, there is the loss of up to 1.5 m of soil thickness due to erosion in some places, and the displacement of the roots of Araucaria specimens. The current situation is critical and persistent disturbances restrict the growth of new trees of the species. The project will address the urgent need to restore, for which we draw not only on the extensive experience and knowledge of the theory and practice of equipment restoration, but also educational and social strategies, to avoid degradation in the future, for what which we have numerous antecedents and successful reference cases.
How the project solves the problem:
The project is based on the most up-to-date knowledge of restoration theory and practice from a team with extensive experience in the field. The project is methodologically formulated based on the study of the reference ecosystem and control of dystrophic factors (related to soil erosion, which is aggravated by the presence of livestock). Various techniques will be used grouped into:
ad-hoc techniques for the control of limiting ecological factors, such as works to prevent the advance of erosion that include the enrichment of the vegetation cover to control gullies;
Sowing, planting. “Local ecotypes” will be used in plantations to avoid genetic contamination.
At the same time, these techniques will be adapted to the social conditions of the region, including multiple local actors involved in this problem in order to reduce the socio-ecological factors of degradation in the future.
In this way, the project will address the problems of the region both from an ecological and social perspective, including concrete rehabilitation actions, an effective, economic and lasting monitoring of recovery processes and a social approach with theoretical and methodological frameworks for the medium and long-term sustainability of field interventions.
Control and Monitoring:
A census with DRONES and cameras will be carried out on the variables of coverage and survival. At the beginning of the project, from the study of the reference ecosystem, image 1 (control) will be obtained, and after the planting year of year 1, image 2 (plant establishment) will be obtained. It should be noted that the possibility of having the high resolution image avoids indirect calculations and data collection errors since the plants that are placed can be counted individually with the naked eye or with the help of counting software.
The Laboratory for Rehabilitation and Restoration of Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems (LARREA) has been working in restoration since 2006. The team has books, scientific publications and participation in legal regulations on restoration in both Neuquén and Argentina. This group created the first cooperative of restoration work in Argentina currently in operation. Currently ten doctoral thesis students study topics related to the theory and practice of restoration such as: natural regeneration, direct seeding, key species for restoration (framework species), ecological facilitation, germination of species, use of topsoil in restoration, ecophysiology of species with interest for ecological restoration, use of technosols in restoration. On social issues, one of the most outstanding lines of the team is that referred to in ecological restoration based on environmental education. The group is developing studies on cost calculations for the restoration and use of drone technology for monitoring, with work being published on both topics.
The group has been the organizer of three regional ecological restoration workshops, its director was the first national coordinator of the Argentine restoration network and one of its members coordinates the North Patagonia node of this network that exchanges activities and knowledge on the subject. Likewise, LARREA has organized international catering events in Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, France, among others. Dr. Ceccon has worked for 30 years with ecosystem restoration in different Latin American countries and has published 10 books and 48 articles related to this topic. As a Forestry Engineer, he has carried out restoration work with the Araucaria genus. Dr. Meli has worked for more than 10 years in forest ecosystem restoration projects in various Latin American countries. His projects are framed in interdisciplinary contexts where integration is sought between the ecological, social and economic components of restoration, including all social actors.
Municipality of Caviahue-Copahue, Copahue Provincial Park: The maintenance of the Araucaria forests and their restoration constitute a fundamental local benefit, since it contributes to sustainable tourism and progress towards Sustainable Land Management necessary for the sustainability of community.
Visitors to the area: New educational and recreational possibilities will be offered to assess the natural heritage of the Andean Patagonian forests, particularly for Araucaria araucana, a species of emblematic value in Neuquén.
Rural residents: Improving the forest, restoring them, and planting multipurpose species for restoration and local use, among others, will contribute to a better perception of the benefits of restoration and sustainable land management.
School, children and families of the town of Caviahue and surrounding places: The area "Agroecological Techniques of arid and semi-arid zones" will be involved in the contents and activities for the training of children and transfer to the community about contents and restoration activities.
Centro de Ski Compañía de los Andes SA: Employees will actively participate in the planting of 10,000 seedlings in the area of the ski center. These activities allow increasing awareness of environmental issues, training and transmitting the values of respect for nature in all who are part of the company. It will also be an opportunity to show to thousands of annual visitors the environmental commitment of the province and the nation for the sustainability of anthropic activities and the recovery of the forest. In this way the benefit extends along this path in parallel with the municipal actions to disseminate the project, its continuity and the adherence of visitors.
It is our duty to promote sustainable tourism by protecting the Araucaria Forests and minimizing the impact caused by tourist activities and other disturbances (erosion and livestock) so that residents and visitors can continue to enjoy nature.