Ecosystem services: How can we apply them to Proyecto REGenera?

10th ALTER-NET Summer School, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

by Matías Guerrero

Between 1st and 12th, September, I had the opportunity to attend the 10th Alter-Net Summer School in Nice, France. The school is organized by one of the main research network in Europe. Its objective is to assess changes in biodiversity, analyze the effect of those changes on ecosystem services and inform policymakers and the public about this at a European scale (See more at: http://www.alter-net.info/#sthash.i4V8b84R.dpuf).

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This expertise was mirrored in the main topics of the presentations that we had the opportunity to hear. We developed discussions about ecosystem services, their valuation, some case studies and the important link to policy-makers, through, for example, the IPBES (Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).

Several topics created important discussions among the attendees. One of them was the theoretical backgrounds and methodological tools to value Ecosystem Services (ES). This is an important matter of research due to the dominant vision of one perspective today: the monetary valuation. This approach does not take into account the multiple perspectives of ecosystem services that are valued, not only in monetary terms, but also in cultural, ethical, or many other views to see the support of ecosystems to human well-being.

In the context of local and traditional knowledge, this would be an interesting tool to understand relations between people and nature in contexts such as the REGenera project. We seek to ultimately restore mediterranean ecosystems, where the human influence is an important driver to ecosystem degradation.

Understanding values beyond monetary languages will allow us to resolve conflicts between stakeholders and to create a space for biodiversity, maintaining at the same time more native species than exist in the area today.

It is also urgent to discover the ecosystem functions that native species provide us with and the ecosystem services that are derived from those. Ecosystem functions, such as Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) herbivory, are unknown properties that probably will have effects in the ecosystem dynamics. This will also impact the provision services for example, but are ecosystem services that we lost 500 years ago when the Guanaco disappeared from this area.

The challenge is big but the motivation to restore the Mediterranean ecosystems from Central Chile is bigger. Little by little we are gathering information and tools to achieve these ambitious goals.

Possible contributions to ecosystem services by guanacos:

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Guanacos browse on Acacia caven and other trees, affecting tree growth and forest composition. This can contribute to services provided by forests, such as shade, the water cycle, or carbon capture.

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Guanacos form latrines, where their feces form large piles. These will probably affect soil composition over time. This could contribute to soil fertility and plant biodiversity.

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Guanacos transport and facilitate the germination of seeds of Acacia caven and other plants, in their feces. This can contribute to forest ecosystem services, as above.

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Guanacos form dust bathing areas, which might be good spaces for native flowers and other plants to establish after they are abandoned. This could contribute to maintaining plant biodiversity, which helps support all other components of biodiversity and functioning ecosystems.

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