RESEARCHERS HELP IN ACTIONS TO RECOVER THE RUIL (NOTHOFAGUS ALESSANDRII)

THIS NATIVE MAULEAN SPECIES HAD ALREADY EXPERIENCED A SEVERE DECLINE WHEN LARGE AREAS WERE REPLACED BY PLANTATIONS OF PINE AND EUCALYPTUS.



April 21, 2017

Specialists from the Institute of Biological Sciences (ICB) and the Center for Molecular Ecology (CEM), along with representatives of other institutions, integrated into a work group at the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), with the aim of developing a contingency plan for the post-fires ecological restoration in a sector of the Los Ruiles Reserve.
 
ICB Director, Claudio Ramírez, explained that the attention has been focused on the ruil forest (Nothofagus alessandrii) because it is a native tree that characterizes the Maulean coastal forest, which had already been declared in danger of extinction and natural monument long before this summer fires.
 
 
"There is a need for short-term measures, such as, for example, to rebuild fences that surround the affected areas, larger firewalls and the rescue of germplasm, in addition to monitoring the ecological post-fires succession, studies of genetic variation in the affected areas, etc.," he said.
 
 
All this is within a context in which it is yet to be defined the level of damage to the native forest and its consequences. "The ecological dynamics of a native forest is much more complex than a forest plantation, and not much is known of these processes," said the director of the ICB.
 
 Loss of Biodiversity
 
 
At the same time, he emphasized that the summer fires affected mainly wood plantations, which are not the same as a forest, given that the first are essentially specific crops of a species such as pine or eucalyptus. "In this sense, the loss of biodiversity as a result of the fires in plantations is very low. In fact, species such as the pine can sprout and recover quickly," he observed.
 
Something very different happens with native forests. In this regard Professor Ramirez said that "these forests are made up of a huge diversity of organisms, many of them still unknown, which set specific ecological relationships generated evolutionarily."
 
Professor Ramirez added that the fire, in the Maule Region, affected mainly the Maulean coastal forest, which had already suffered from a severe deforestation in past decades, when large areas of it were replaced by plantations of pine and eucalyptus. "There are only fragments of native forests, some of them protected by Conaf", he said, together with indicating that the detailed registry of the damage caused by the fires in these forests is still pending, which were in the order of more than 50%.
 
 Benefits
 
 On the other hand, the academic explained that natural ecosystems provide a number of benefits to the human population, including the regulation of climate, fixation of CO2, regulation of erosion and nutrient cycling, pollination, etc. He noted that the loss of biodiversity is associated with the decrease of these services.
 
The ICB has a research area in biodiversity, and as a result of this it has generated a baseline of information that is required for make decisions. "This is an important contribution," he said regarding the ecological restoration actions to be undertaken.



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